Thursday, June 26, 2008


The crackberries taste like crackberries!

That is by far my favorite nickname for a Blackberry. In more traditional blackberry news, I hope to go blackberry and blueberry picking this weekend. We might have to check out the Happy Berry Farm, which isn't too far from Clemson. We bought some blueberries from the grocery store and were not pleased. They already had fuzzy mold growing in the middle. Bad Super Bi-Lo! It's ok though. I've pretty much stopped buying produce from them anyway. Kathey's Produce is where most of our vegetables and fruit comes from now. She has a decent selection and most of it is local to SC or the southeast with a few items coming from Cali (as in -fornia, not Cali, Colombia) I bought some Cubanelle peppers from her yesterday and since they were a tad old and getting some red color to them, she sold them at a dime a piece. Needless to say I grabbed a few more after she told me that. Her green bell peppers are $0.50 each which is a good price but the cubanelle is still crunchy and slightly sweet and really cheap!

In recent movie news, we watched King Corn and Numb last weekend and before that, we watched Lars and the Real Girl.

We'll start with King Corn. Two young gents decide to grow an acre of corn and then follow it around and see what happens. Along the way we discover that they are both from the same town in Iowa, 2 generations removed, and became friends before even knowing that. They show us that the corn we grow and eat now isn't really like the corn that the pilgrims and indians ate. Their corn had a much higher protein content and ours has a much higher starch content. A geneticist or something along those lines, runs a DNA test on their hair to see if anything stands out. Turns out there is alot of corn. But why? Well it's because Earl Butz decided to stop paying farmers not to grow corn and starting paying them to basically grow as much freakin' corn as their land could produce. 11 billion bushels of corn was the US' harvest a couple years ago. Yes, that's alot of corn. But where does it all go? Some goes to bio-fuels and ethanol (I still don't agree with using food to make fuel, grasses and algaes can do that too), lots goes to the sweetener industry, some goes to feed livestock and then we eat some of it too. A chemist devised a way to turn all that starch into sugar and the food processors jumped all over it as a way to save money over importing all that stupid sugar from sugarcane. Butz had a good idea, to reduce how much Americans spent on food, but he did so at the expense of our health. Here is a little tidbit from Lesley Garner's essay "How Americans became the fattest people in the world":
According to Greg Critser, the problems began with Earl Butz, a former Secretary of Agriculture to Richard Nixon whose brief was to produce cheaper food.

Under Butz, corn crops multiplied, leading to the increased production of high-fructose corn syrup, a liquid sugar produced from corn starch that is six times sweeter than cane sugar, and which had new attributes that matched the needs of food manufacturers very well indeed.

Not only did high-fructose corn syrup mean that more sweet foodstuff could be produced much cheaper than before, it also protected frozen foods from freeze-burn, prolonged the shelf life of other foods and made baked goods look more appetising.

Then, palm oil — a vegetable oil made from the pulp of the palm tree — entered the national diet. Palm oil may sound healthy, but its other name, tree lard, gives a hint of its highly saturated nature. It was loaded with calories and bad for arteries. But, in the jargon of the processed food industry, it gave "good mouthfeel". And it was cheap.

SAYS Critser:

"The legacy of Earl Butz was that Coca-Cola and Pepsi switched from a 50/50 mix of corn sugar and cane sugar to 100 per cent high-fructose corn syrup, enabling them to save 20 per cent costs, boost portion sizes and still make profits."

At the supermarket, too, calorie-dense convenience foods became even more affordable.

"In short, Butz had delivered everything the modern American consumer had wanted. Cheap, abundant and tasty calories had arrived. It was time to eat."

The cheap, calorie-dense fillers were embraced by a new breed of fast-food marketing men — and sales went through the roof. What the American consumer wanted was quantity, not quality. They wanted more for less, and they got it in jumbo portions and combo deals (chicken, mash, gravy, peas and a cola, for example).
Food was cheap and plentiful and not really healthy. A terrible combination. Our portions are bigger than they were, courtesy of Divine Caroline, and our waistlines are paying the price.

They're also feeding this to the animals we eat. Cows should be happy. Like these happy cows at the Happy Cow Creamery! So what makes cows happy? Lots of room to roam around and play. Lots of grass for their 4 stomachs to digest and other happy cow companions. The problem is, lots of cows take up lots of space, so the current "bottom line only" solution is to confine the cows into pens and feed them, you guessed it, corn! Lots of corn and not just corn but some of the plant and husk as well. The problem is that after 150 days of nothing but corn and zero exercise, the cows get sick and die. No problem! We'll slaughter them after 120-140 days! Hooray! The only problem being that a t-bone from a corn fed cow has 9 grams of saturated fat and the same size t-bone from a grass fed happy cow has 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Ewwwwww.

I and the movie are not saying we should fire Iowa farmers. They're farmers, let them farm, but maybe they should grow more than just corn! Oh, that's the other problem. The profit margin is so slim that lots of family owned farms are being foreclosed and sold to super huge mega farms. This movie really inspired J and I to eat locally, cut out as much processed corn products as possible (we had 10-12 products in our house that had it including instant mashed potatoes, BBQ sauce, chocolate mousse mix, Swiss Miss and some other stuff, there's still some frozen fish that we're going to eat instead of giving to a food bank), and only eat meat if it is responsibly raised and grass fed. So no more fast food, no more abused chicken (cage free is the way to be!), no more corn fed unhappy cows and we'll see what happens. Sure we'll be paying more for food, but I figure we'll be healthier so it's like we're saving on healthcare costs in the future. I'll keep you updated on how that's going. We tried Fantastic Food's Sloppy Joe Mix (we called it Sloppy Vegans, cuz that sounds funny and a bit gross) and it was delicious! Honestly couldn't tell that a poor unhappy cow hadn't died to feed me.

That was a long review. The others will be shorter. Promise.

Numb featured Matthew Perry, Mary Steenburgen, Kevin Pollack, and others. It focused on Perry who was a writer and also crazy. He wasn't sure what was real and what wasn't and couldn't feel real life. He finds love in Lynn Collins, loses it, goes a bit crazy then less crazy and then something else happens. It's definitely a bit slow in parts and Steenburgen portrays a great crazy therapist who seriously crosses the line and, I'm sure Ted Danson will be glad to hear, is very sexy. I honestly wouldn't go out of my way to see this but it was a funny quirky crazy romantic comedy with some solid performances.

Lars and the Real Girl on the other hand is a must see funny quirky really crazy romantic comedy. Ryan Gosling plays a disturbed Lars who was ignored by his father after their mother died when he was 10 or 11. Lars' brother wasn't much help and left as soon as he could leaving Lars and crazy dad to cope with the awfulness. His brother does realize he was wrong and lets Lars live in his converted garage. Lars is a loner to the -nth degree. He doesn't even register the cute girl at work flirting with him and is very visibly uncomfortable around all women. He learns one day at work that you can custom make and order your very own Real Girl (Real Doll), so he orders one up. He treats her like a real girl. Buys her clothes, courts her and makes her dinner. I assume most real doll orderers tear right into theirs but Lars wines and dines her and treats her like the classy latex woman she is. The super craziness starts when Lars tells his brother and sister-in-law that he wants to come over for dinner (they always invite him but he always declines) and wants to bring a guest. Lo and behold it's the real doll and dinner is awkward and uncomfortable for everyone but Lars (and the real doll presumably). The brother and wife seek out counsel. The therapist tells him that he's probably just compensating and this is how he's going to work out his woman issues and that they should accept the real doll for a real girl and pretend like she's real. The entire town gets in on it and the real doll becomes very popular (and not like that you sicko) because she reads to kids at the library and visits the old folks home. It's so heart-warming to see the town bend over backwards to make Lars and his "girlfriend" feel welcome and at the same time so creepy seeing a latex sex toy read to kids. Excellent excellent movie and Ryan Gosling does a superb job portraying a socially awkward misfit. This film brought tears to my eyes it was so heart-warming and touching.

Okay, back to writing!

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