An erudite, self-aware feminist memoir, in graphic novel form, examining a lesbian's childhood relationship with her parents - especially her closetedAn erudite, self-aware feminist memoir, in graphic novel form, examining a lesbian's childhood relationship with her parents - especially her closeted gay father. Fun Home is chock full of psychoanalysis, literary criticism and commentary on gender, sexuality and suicide. You may recognise the author's name from her Bechdel Test, which 'asks if a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man' to indicate gender bias (Wikipedia).
I grew to resent the way my father treated his furniture like children, and his children like furniture.
Bruce taught high school English while also being a part-time funeral director. Renovating old houses, including his own, was his obsessive hobby. Affairs with men and sex with his students got him into trouble. Criminal charges were pressed when he gave an underage boy beer, code for the real accusation of homosexuality.
He KILLED HIMSELF because he was a manic depressive, closeted FAG and he couldn't face living in this small-minded small town one more SECOND.
...and when we'd go to New York, he'd go out alone at night. Once he got body lice! But it's not just the... the... affairs. It's the shoplifting, the speed tickets, the lying, his rages.
A couple of weeks before Bruce's death, Alison's mother told Bruce she was divorcing him. If he hadn't (maybe) killed himself by walking out in front of a truck, Bechdel ponders whether she would've lost him to AIDS a few years later.
I measured my father against the grimy deer hunters at the gas station uptown, with their yellow workboots and shorn-sheep haircuts. And where he fell short, I stepped in . . . Not only were we inverts. We were inversions of one another.
Bechdel suggests she compensated for her father's stereotypical feminine qualities--for example, trying to force her to like and wear girly things, and his fondness for the tiniest details of decorating and gardening and flowers--by becoming more butch, masculine.
While Alison always wanted to be a boy, she loved dressing in boys' clothes, Bruce confessed he'd wanted to be a girl. Interfered with as a child, his battle with gender and sexual identity issues and his manic depressive nature surely made for an exceptionally frustrated man.
Perhaps my eagerness to claim him as "gay" in the way I am "gay," as opposed to bisexual or some other category, is just a way of keeping him to myself--a sort of inverted Oedipal Complex.
Although Bechdel seemed to resent her father in childhood, she ultimately felt closer to him after learning of their shared homosexuality. Her relationship with her mother, on the other hand, felt mildly distant and awkward especially in her younger years when a 13-year-old Alison struggled to tell her mother she'd started her period. But those years were fraught with anxieties as OCD gradually monopolized Alison's childhood.
Fun Home is emotionally intelligent despite Bechdel's self-confessed difficulty with expressing her feelings. Although it reads like she swallowed an Oxford dictionary, an Oxford Companion to English Literature and several psychology textbooks, it's intimidating nature in its depth and astuteness is still accessible to those who haven't read the relevant books.
Bechdel's autobiographical journey is told through books and their relevance to her and her family. Most references are made to classic literature and their authors, some of which I haven't read. Albert Camus. Ernest Hemingway. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The Taming of the Shrew. Venus in Furs. James and the Giant Peach. Wallace Stevens. Marcel Proust. Morning's At Seven. Wind in the Willows. The Importance of Being Earnest and Oscar Wilde. Catcher in the Rye. James Joyce. The Odyssey. Earthly Paradise by Colette. Virgina Woolf. Flying by Kate Millett. The myth of Icarus and his father. And many, many more.
I've got to say I'm curious as to what Bechdel thought of her Philosophy of Art class, whether she found it as confounding as I did.
'A graphic narrative of uncommon richness, depth, literary resonance and psychological complexity.'Kirkus Reviews
Fun Home is the perfect book for studying. It's themes of feminism, lesbianism, psychoanalysis and literary discussion are all written with self-deprecating black humour and irony, making for a compelling read.
'High cortisol levels during sleep, for instance, interfere with restfulness, and increase the hunger hormone ghrelin the next day. This differs from person to person, but I was jolted by recognition of the outrageous deliciousness of doughnuts when I haven't slept well.'
'You're either in anorexigenesis – "I'm not hungry and I can burn energy" – or you're in orexigenesis – "I'm hungry and I want to store energy." The flip switch is your leptin level (the hormone that regulates your body fat) but too much insulin in your system blocks the leptin signal.'
'"You here in Britain are light years ahead of us in terms of understanding the problem. We don't get it in the US, we have this libertarian streak. You don't have that. You're going to solve it first. So it's in my best interests to help you, because that will help me solve it back there."'
'Education has not solved any substance of abuse. This is a substance of abuse. So you need two things, you need personal intervention and you need societal intervention. Rehab and laws, rehab and laws. Education would come in with rehab. But we need laws."'
✔ Add to The Checklist Manifesto to wishlist ❒ Buy, beg, borrow or steal The Checklist Manifesto ❒ Read The Checklist Manifesto ❒ Rate The Checklist Mani✔ Add to The Checklist Manifesto to wishlist ❒ Buy, beg, borrow or steal The Checklist Manifesto ❒ Read The Checklist Manifesto ❒ Rate The Checklist Manifesto ❒ Review The Checklist Manifesto...more
I didn't like the ending. Stupid, I know. It's right there in the title. I found it so upsetting, I ran into my mother's bedroom, woke her up and huggI didn't like the ending. Stupid, I know. It's right there in the title. I found it so upsetting, I ran into my mother's bedroom, woke her up and hugged her tightly. I have been taking her for granted. She won't be around forever and I must appreciate her more now while she still has all of her faculties despite her difficulties with her mental and physical health. The next day I ran out and bought her flowers, chocolates and her favourite cheesecake as early Mother's Day gifts.
This is a collection of short autobiographical articles covering 10 years, originally written for the author's column in The Guardian. We begin with an 89-year-old independent grandmother called Clarice deciding to move from her home on the coast in Brighton to live with her 54-year-old daughter and 18-year-old granddaughter in London.
Generational gaps and culture clash / shock provide plenty of friction. Friends to compete, argue and console with are entertaining distractions. And frustrations take the form of form-filling and jobsworth bureaucracy, health issues with the associated numerous endless hospital and GP appointments, the expensive no value for money nursing homes, and the appalling attitude NHS hospital staff have towards the elderly and mentally ill. Quite a few of these things I've experienced myself with my own mother so I sympathise.
Hanson's mother is painted as an honest-to-a-fault, opinionated, food porn loving, make-do and mend scrimper and saver of money. She is sweet, brazen, stubborn and fascinated by all the sex on TV. In a word, she is lovable. I wish I'd had a grandma like her. As it is, my mother's got the honest to a fault part down. Getting her to lie is impossible. Even little white ones. "Does my bum look big in this?" "Yes, you need to lose weight." "I know! No need to tell me."
While Michele writes in a middle-aged, southern England mildly posh and slightly melodramatic and comedic way, her daughter Amy's extra long chapter towards the end is poignant and heartbreaking. Her grandmother's birthday wish for many years was to die and instead she seems to receive a new ailment. A stroke causing aphasia - a difficulty in communicating, particularly talking, was the worst. A previously animated, chatty and opinionated woman is at first reduced to silence and life became one long game of Charades, and then gradually she was able to say a few words at a time but they aren't always the right ones. Her daughter and granddaughter became excellent translators.
My mother was lucky. Her mini-strokes happened all at once, resulting in amnesia - including forgetting how to eat - and referring to herself in third person, taking months to recover.
I understood Amy's painful guilt, her inability to watch the indignities of ageing, the simple everyday activities we carry out and take for granted that become embarrassingly difficult and messy as her grandmother's body deteriorates and malfunctions.
It's amazing that Clarice lasted as long as she did, to a ripe old age of 99. Had she moved into a nursing home instead, I doubt she would've lasted 3 years let alone 10. Michele couldn't do that to her mother, didn't want the guilt or the worry that goes with letting others care for someone you love. She did everything she could to keep her mother mentally and physically active, and raising Clarice's spirits when she was depressed and longing for death.
Right now I'm doing the same. I've become concerned that my mother's mental agility is in peril. Dementia has become a concern and I've realised she has little stimulation since she fills her day with repetitive OCD activities. The jigsaw I bought was for us to do together but I suspect the number of pieces and the complexity intimidated her. Trying to get her to read new books is a nagging exercise, in fact anything and everything I try to introduce is outright rejected or reluctantly accepted but never done. This is going to be an uphill battle.
I recommend Living with Mother to everyone because not only will many of us be responsible for caring for our parents as life expectancy increases, but we are all ageing. Hanson's account informs us of what's in store for us in our futures, enabling us to decide on how we're going to cope....more
Whether you've never exercised in your life or you're a professional, competitive sportsperson this is a must read.
Exercise helps depression, reducesWhether you've never exercised in your life or you're a professional, competitive sportsperson this is a must read.
Exercise helps depression, reduces the negative effects of stress, anxiety, and anger, encouraging a calmer and happier disposition, and makes you smarter from better blood flow to the brain, enhances memory and general brain functioning (neurogenesis). A difference can be seen 6-8 weeks after starting regular exercise. It's also the ultimate anti-aging solution, preventing frailty, shrinkage (that includes the gonads!) and age-related damage to your DNA. Even if you're over 60 or obese, it's never too late to start exercising. Just 5 minutes a day is a good start. Years will be added to your life.
Weight loss, marathon running, cycling, swimming, weightlifting, and general aerobic exercises are covered. Distinctions are made between men and women, by age (under and over 40), and advice given to avoid exercise-related injuries. Lookout for the end of chapter key points for great tips and advice. Below are some of the more general things I liked that people should either do or don't do.
✔ 150 minutes of exercise per week. (Sex counts as exercise!) ✔ Increase fitness by increasing intensity or duration by 10% per week. ✔ Keep an exercise diary. ✔ Only short, low intensity warm-ups work otherwise they impede performance. ✔ Eat a banana before exercise and exercise before breakfast, drink low fat chocolate milk after, and eat eggs for breakfast. ✔ Continue normal routine after exercise instead of being less active. ✔ Drink pickle juice (2.5 ounces) as a palliative (takes 85 seconds) for cramping which is due to muscle exhaustion, not dehydration. Vinegar may be the thing in the pickle juice that works. ✔ Interval exercise (e.g. 3 min high intensity, 3 min low intensity) is more efficient, 75 minutes per week max. ✔ Weight / resistance training is incredibly beneficial, especially for people like runners: increases flexibility, strengthens bones, increases reaction and speed times. ✔ More repetitions with lighter weights are more effective than less repetitions with heavier weights. ✔ Increase balance by standing on one leg and closing your eyes while brushing your teeth each day. ✔ 25 squats everyday, they strengthen most of the body. Add a kettlebell for more of a challenge. ✔ 16 pushups for women, 27 for men minimum. Beginners: use counter-top first, move to stairs, then the floor. ✔ Follow the right way to do certain aerobic exercises see the end of chapter 6 (40 mins into 6th audio file). ✔ Moderate exercise while ill improves health. ✔ Stand more than sit, it burns more calories.
✘ Take ibuprofen for sore muscles, it will decrease the effect of the exercise. ✘ Massage sore muscles, it impedes blood flow and gives no physiological benefits regarding performance. ✘ Take ice baths. They cause more soreness after exercise, and don't speed recovery or increase performance. ✘ Do carbo-loading, it doesn't work. It only puts weight on. ✘ Eat more when exercising if you're trying to lose weight. You're replacing what you've burned. ✘ Do crunches or sit-ups until you've researched the right way to do them or you could damage your spine. ✘ Buy tone-up shoes, they only work while doing squats. ✘ Buy individually tailored shoes, they lead to more injuries. Your feet adjust to what they're used to. Barefoot runners run differently to those in shoes, their feet slap the ground with less force and land on the front of the foot. If you want to switch types, do it gradually.
Listen up, women!:
✺ Scientific fact: It's harder for women to lose weight. ✺ But when we stop exercising we'll hang-on to our exercise benefits for longer than men. This is thought to ensure survival during pregnancy -an evolutionary advantage. ✺ We're more likely to be injured while oestrogen is high (i.e. during ovulation). We're more clumsy. ✺ In utero changes to foetuses in response to a good diet and exercise of their mothers, gives babies better starts in life. ✺ We sweat less than men during exercise; overweight and unfit women sweat less than fit women so they're less able to keep cool. Fit people sweat more at lower temperatures as a form of temperature control to avoid overheating.
Parts may be a little too technical and boring for some (perhaps a few too many studies were explained in detail), and it's a little repetitive in places. I've studied biology to degree level, but I was struggling to remember those lessons while listening to the more scientific elements of exercise. However, both the author and some of the scientists had a sense of humour. Reynolds said Paula Radcliffe 'runs like a praying mantis', and one study was called 'Revenge of the Sit.' Honestly, I think the usefulness of the advice given outweighs the more tedious aspects of the book.
Karen Saltus is an excellent narrator. She made this a joy to listen to rather than a chore. I'd definitely recommend The First 20 Minutes to everyone doing any sort of exercise....more
Cynical people: it's worse than you can even imagine. Privacy infringements, systematic exploitation of children and African Americans, government corCynical people: it's worse than you can even imagine. Privacy infringements, systematic exploitation of children and African Americans, government corruption, and a willful disregard of consumers' health. Moss's three and a half years of investigative reporting for Salt Sugar Fat were well worth the effort, though his writing isn't concise, and boring when it came to describing the careers of food scientists he clearly admires, the points he makes are startling and incredibly important. Although America is the primary country talked about, the problems discussed are global issues.
Children and people of African descent are the most vulnerable when it comes to salt, sugar and fat, because they're more prone to acquiring a diet high in all those things, and the food industry has been quick to take advantage by adding more and more SSFs to out compete other brands by appealing to people's taste buds instead of their health, keeping an eye on their bottom lines and not their customers' waistlines.
Before reading, I believed it was your responsibility to eat healthily, but reading about America's neglectful and downright harmful governmental practices, allowing food companies to fudge the nutritional information on their products, stops the grocery shopper from making an informed decision about what they wish to put inside their bodies, and therefore food companies are indeed responsible for various serious health conditions, i.e. obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease (cholesterol), and cancers. 'The top contributors to weight gain included red meat and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and potatoes' in all its forms.
SSF addicts are referred to as "heavy users" by companies, though even their ex-presidents and CEOs (many of whom Moss personally interviewed) admit the harm they've caused, feel guilty about their part in it, and actively avoid consuming their own products. Jeffrey Dunn, ex-president of Coca-Cola, developed Dasani bottled water and stopped marketing in schools, but was ultimately fired, for which he was grateful, and now he only works with healthy foods.
Privacy infringements abound: Coke data-mined customer loyalty cards; General Foods 'had mass-mailing lists composed entirely of the names and addresses of children, in order to better target them with promotions.'
Insidious marketing strategies are plentiful: pushing comics like 'The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man' published by Marvel; multiple child-friendly websites pushing junk food; advertising to those who've over-indulged, targeting people with diabetes for their sugar-free products; adding vitamins or a smidgen of fruit for a false healthy image e.g. Capri Sun; or removing real ingredients that you'd think would be essential e.g. Cheez Whiz no longer contains real cheese.
Parallels are drawn with the tobacco industry and the health crises surrounding it, and it just so happens Philip Morris, having made its dough in tobacco, now owns a cadre of food brands. Our food is handled by large conglomerates controlling hundreds of brands, who pump potentially harmful artificial additives and who knows what else (oh, wait horsemeat) into our food. Maybe it's time we invested in the little guys going it alone again, where the people in control know exactly what's in their food, and the distance between the guy on the ground floor and the one in the big office on the top floor, is a lot shorter.
'Take more than a little salt, or sugar, or fat out of processed food, these experiments showed, and there is nothing left. Or, even worse, what is left are the inexorable consequences of food processing, repulsive tastes that are bitter, metallic, and astringent.'
Moss suggests taxing SSFs before they're added to processed foods, though companies will probably pass on that cost to consumers. He also advocates the use of more herbs and spices, but again, since salt is so cheap compared to alternatives, they'd rather stick with what they know than spend more on higher quality, healthier alternatives. Or, we as a society, need to go back to eating the standard three (fresh) meals a day when we ate SSFs in moderation instead of snacking on convenience foods.
Now it's becoming harder to peddle SSFs to the public in developed countries, they're despicably looking to exploit the Third World developing nations like India and Brazil.
I started my first official diet with the help of MyFitnessPal.com just before reading SSF, and it's made me acutely aware of what I'm eating. Now I read the back of every item while grocery shopping, before deciding to buy it. My nemesis are grain-based carbs, potatoes, orange juice, and butter. I don't have a problem with salt and my 'bliss point' for sugar dropped considerably in my late teens, which is the last time I drank soda.
Salt Sugar Fat is definitely a highly recommended read.
SUGAR (a methamphetamine)
✺ Cocaine acts on the brain in a similar way to sugar: '...researchers have conditioned rats to expect an electrical shock when they eat cheesecake, and they still lunge for it.' Drugs countering the effects of opiates curb the appeal of high fat, high sugar snacks. ✺ Nearly every food contains some amount of sugar, naturally occurring in fruit, veg, and milk, so we have no need for 'added sugar'. ✺ Sugar is an analgesic (a pain killer). ✺ Americans consume '22 teaspoons of sugar, per person, per day', yet 5 teaspoons are recommended -that's half a can of Coke. ✺ Fructose is sweeter than glucose and table sugar combined, and has been commercially available since the 1980s. ✺ Sugar has a 'bliss point' - a Goldilocks amount, that creates the most pleasure. ✺ Sweetened foods make you more hungry, not less. ✺ Sweet liquids bypass the body's controls preventing weight gain. Soda and fruit juice concentrates are liquid sugar. ✺ Cereals contain up to 70% sugar, and some believe cereals over 50% sugar should be sold as candy. ✺ The Cola War with Pepsi saw Coke inventing supersizing, endorsement deals, and combination deals (e.g. burger with fries), they even put Cokes into the hands of soldiers in WWII at a loss, all to encourage brand loyalty and addiction. ✺ Coke's biggest ingredient is water, followed by sugar, then caffeine. Hypertention and diabetes in a bottle - Mmm, healthy.
FAT (an opiate)
✺ 9 calories per gram, twice that of sugar or protein. ✺ Sugar masks and enhances the taste of fat, encouraging you to eat more. ✺ No 'bliss point' for fat, the more the better. ✺ Whole milk is only 3% fat. ✺ American eat up to 33 pounds of cheese per year (60,000 calories), triple the amount in 1970s. It's the biggest source of saturated fat in American diets, followed by red meat, then cakes and cookies. ✺ Industrialisation of cows bred indoors on a diet of corn and fat, has increased milk production but lowered the nutritious value of the milk. ✺ When Americans moved to low fat milk, the excess fat was converted to cheese, and the American government protected the dairy industry by ludicrously buying up the excess cheese and beef. Cheese-products were made: mac & cheese, meaty pizzas, etc. Even celeb chefs were asked to promote cheese in cookbooks. On behalf of producers, the government aggressively marketed cheese and beef to the American public (and in Mexico). ✺ "Chilled prepared foods" saw the introduction of Lunchables, containing a child's maximum daily allowance of saturated fat and salt, and more than a can of Coke's worth of sugar. ✺ The Department of Agriculture has ignored experts in its Center for Nutrition and has conspired to get the public to eat more. ✺ 'Lean meat' doesn't necessarily mean low fat. ✺ McDonald's was the first to remove "pink slime" from its burgers. ✺ When opening a package containing multiple servings, you're more likely to eat the whole thing.
✺ 'Sodium pulls fluids from the body's tissues and into the blood, which raises the blood volume and compels the heart to pump more forcefully.' This causes high blood pressure. ✺ The least addictive of the big three. ✺ We learn this addiction, it's not innate like sugar and fat. ✺ Low salt diets increase taste sensitivity to salt, so less is eaten. ✺ It's a preservative, masks bitterness, sweetens sugar, adds crunch to things like crackers. ✺ 2,300mg recommended maximum per day. ✺ England's Food Standards Agency set a limit on how much salt a product could contain and discouraged of salt substitute potassium chloride, effecting US-based companies the most. ✺ Processed meats contain added salt e.g. bacon. ✺ Cargill, one of the wealthiest privately-owned companies in the world, sells 17 types of sweeteners, 40 types of salt, 21 oils and shortenings.
The Horsemeat Scandal
The below paragraph shows me how easy it would be for the European horsemeat scandal to spread to the US:
'the Department of Agriculture is actually complicit in the meat industry's secrecy. [...] The burger that Stephanie [paralyzed by E.Coli] ate, made by Cargill, had been an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of the cow and from multiple slaughterhouses as far away as Uruguay. The meat industry, with the blessing of the federal government, was intentionally avoiding steps that could make their products safer for consumers. The E. Coli starts in the slaughterhouses, where feces tainted with the pathogen can contaminate the meat when the hides of cows are pulled off. Yet many of the biggest slaughterhouses would sell their meat only to hamburger makers like Cargill if they agreed not to test their meat for E. Coli until it was mixed together with shipments from other slaughterhouses. This insulated the slaughterhouses from costly recalls when the pathogen was found in ground beef, but it also prevented the government officials and the public from tracing the E. Coli back to its source. When it comes to pathogens in the meat industry, ignorance is financial bliss.'
Monkeys eating their own testicles. The merits of omega-3s. Foods to avoid. The ineffectual food system controlled by supermarkets and the demand forMonkeys eating their own testicles. The merits of omega-3s. Foods to avoid. The ineffectual food system controlled by supermarkets and the demand for cheaper food. The exploitation of developing nations. Antiquated legisalation and subsidies. Felicity Lawrence covers them all in Eat Your Heart Out, expanding on her previous work Not on the Label: What Really Goes Into the Food on Your Plate.
However, if you've read that then you'll find parts of Eat Your Heart Out repetitive by again describing our dependence on oil and fossil fuels, and noting the plight of farmers and processors at the hands of the supermarkets. But the author does eventually build on and update us on those issues, though perhaps Ms. Lawrence should've started her books off with 'Supermarkets are destroying food sustainability because... and are responsible for many other evils such as...' If you don't feel guilty about buying your groceries from them now, then you will once you've finished reading.
Agricultural subsidies are benefiting large corporations (e.g. Tate & Lyle) and landowners and not the farmers who need them to survive, so we're seeing more and more farmers either selling up or going bankrupt, decreasing the number of competitors and sometimes creating monopolies leading supermarkets to search further afield for certain foods. For example, we'll soon have to import milk because dairymen are rapidly disappearing:
'The irony for Colin Rank was that his cows were drinking water from a Cotswold spring that he could bottle and sell for 80p a litre, several times the price he could get for his milk. "We're giving it to cows and devaluing it by turning it into milk. Like all dairy farmers we could pack up tomorrow and do something better with our capital but we do it because we have an emotional investment in the land and the animals. And we know there's a market for our products if only the market worked."'
Developed countries are buying up land (for intensive farming) or plundering the seas of developing countries and are depleting and/or destroying their natural resources without taking responsibility by making an effort to minimize or repair the damage. Sometimes this action is in response to growing domestic legislation and increasing local labour costs.
Domestic labour costs are expensive so food processors get rid of British workers in favour of migrant workers both legal and otherwise:
'...cheap, dispensable labour had become structural to the economics of food manufacturing and processing. Companies didn't want to employ people directly, because to be the lowest cost producer you have to be able to turn off your labour at no cost whenever you want. You don't want to be saddled with expensive benefits such as pensions. And subcontracting chains enable you to hide how little you are paying.'
Exploited migrant labour falls somewhere between servants and slaves as they're not paid a reliable or livable wage and are likely to suffer dangerous and deadly conditions.
Talking of slaves, Lawrence gives us a history lesson on the Atlantic slave trade as free labour for sugar production in the West Indies for British consumption by the rich. I suppose I'm a descendant of those slaves being that I'm half Bajan.
Are a majority of us omega-3 deficient?
Deprived monkeys self-harm. One tried to eat his own testicles. Experiments Lawrence describes are incredibly interesting, showing the substantial effects on physical and mental health. Diet changes in prison reflected a remarkable lowering of objectionable behaviour. Violence and depression decreased as levels of omega-3 increased. Today's diet is less varied and nutritious as it was fifty years ago and omega-3 is harder to come by other than in fish. Of course, other factors play a part but I think there's some merit to this theory.
FOODS TO AVOID:
Probiotics. They make you fat and aren't particularly healthy for you unless you have a digestive illness.
Acrylamide. A carcinogen present in starchy foods heated to high temps during processing, e.g. crisps, chips, and breakfast cereals.
Sugar in all its refined forms, including high fructose corn syrup, because it's addictive, fattening, causes diabetes, etc.
Baby formula, if possible. Eight months of exclusively bottle feeding results in 30,000 extra calories in the form of sugar, than consumed by breastfed babies. They're getting them hooked while they're young.
Commercial baby food. Sterilization caramelizes sugars in their fruit and veg.
'Low-fat' anything. Code for 'high in sugar'.
Aspartame, an artificial sweetener that has been found to be carcinogenic.
Endangered fish. Try to eat wild fish from the MSC sustainable list. Farmed seafood is rife with disease and heavy metals. Lawrence says the fish industry is committing suicide by willfully depleting wild fish stocks. She notes the red tape tying the hands of local fishermen (selling locally) illegally over-fishing to make ends meet as the bulk of quotas are allocated to the 'big fish' so to speak, forcing the little guys to either break the law or go out of business.
Margarine and its hydrogenated trans fat high cholesterol crap. Ironically, you're better off with butter than its substitutes which are less healthy.
Soya milk. Soya's oestrogens disrupt hormone balances (e.g. menstrual cycles) and damage the thyroid. Babies exclusively fed soya milk equates to them taking 5 birth control pills a day - which is unsafe. Not even children should be drinking it as they'll reach sexual maturity faster. For boys, oestrogen can negatively affect their fertility. It's possible it could be good for menopausal women and older men as it may help protect against heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast and prostate cancers.
Cereal. Most are high in sugar. Weetabix and porridge are best.
Standard milk. Organic grass-fed is healthier and more nutritious (68% more omega-3s) and the cows are treated better than this:
'[Cows] have been so overbred for high yields that their mammary glands' capacity to produce milk exceeds their ability to digest enough nutrients to keep up ... they are operating at the limits of their physiology ... half intensively kept cows go lame in any one year, and 20 per cent in a herd are likely to go lame at any one time. '
Why? Standing on concrete for long periods, too heavy udders prone to mastitis requiring antibiotics and possibly causing infertility, and not enough space to lie down in.
Consuming lots of low quality meat. Meat is an inefficient source of protein requiring a large amount of resources for small output, which due to intensive farming practices has been further devalued since the once lower fat white meat, like chicken, is now as fatty as red when the animals aren't free to exercise. Neither are they free to eat their natural diet and are instead fed grain, lowering the nutritional value of their meat, eggs and dairy. Also, cheap 'fresh' meat sometimes contains added sugar and water. I knew about the water, not the sugar.
✺ Male dairy calves are viewed as useless waste because they don't produce milk, there's little demand for veal and EU legislation and DEFRA policy allows them little recourse but to shoot them at birth. Why can't they be raised for beef? They're bred for high-producing dairy and give very little beef for the cost of resources to raise them - it doesn't make economic sense.
✺ Soya and its derivatives are in high demand for its uses in animal feed, ready meals, junk and fast food, but the price is the illegal clearing of the Amazon to grow it.
✺ Fruit's been engineered to be sweeter (e.g. red grapes 4% sweeter than in 1940s) sacrificing flavour and vitamins and minerals in the process. It may also be months old by the time it hits supermarket shelves - they've found a way to halt the ripening process.
✺ 75% of sugar is bought by industry rather than shoppers so it should be no surprise British teenage boys consume the equivalent of 1,000 colas or 11,800 sugar cubes per year.
Future prospects for the food industry are going to be shaped by the rising oil prices, climate change, China and India's rapid growth and changing diets, obesity and related illness, the 'short-termism' of governments, and the raised awareness among consumers changing the way we shop, resulting in more protests and campaigns for change. Yep, change is inevitable.
Lawrence really hammers home the dangers of the current system one day leaving us all starving to death if we don't change what and how we grow, rear and sell our food. Whatever happens, know we'll most likely have to pay more for it, and so we should. Remember, you get what you pay for. Hopefully, that will mean nutritious food free from chemicals produced by people paid a decent wage to treat animals with care....more
If a little out of date (published in 2004) Not on the Label is a solid exposé of the industrialization and globalization of food to the detriment ofIf a little out of date (published in 2004) Not on the Label is a solid exposé of the industrialization and globalization of food to the detriment of the environment, health, society, our senses and wallets. Felicity Lawrence has spent 3 years investigating the global food system for The Guardian uncovering the hidden and scandalous practices involved in the journey of food from the dirt to our stomachs, offering up suggestions for improvements to the system for future security as '...our current food system is environmentally, ethically and even biologically unsustainable...' and how the average person can do their part if they wish, though she doesn't judge those that are unable to do so.
All chicken is diseased. It's not a stretch to make that statement since mass contamination takes place. It only takes is one sick chicken. Doesn't matter if it's organically reared, they go through the same processing plants. And if that wasn't enough, cheap chicken breasts can contain only 54% chicken - the rest is water and possibly pork and/or beef, which usually appear in ethnic restaurants to be eaten Muslims and Hindus. (In that case, the recent horsemeat scandal should've come as no surprise, though once again it was the Irish who brought it to light.)
Furthermore, genetic selection has seen chickens appear like 'weightlifters on steroids' with their over-large breasts crippling their legs, putting undue pressure on their hearts and causing skin infections from rolling around in their own excrement. Limited living space from intense farming increases disease and treatment with antibiotics resulted in antibiotic resistance which may be being passed on to humans.
Ready-to-eat salad is less nutritious, can be diseased, and the chlorine it's washed in has been linked to cancer.
'Supermarkets rarely have written contracts with farmers or packhouses promising to buy certain quantities, although farmers are obliged to commit to supplying certain amounts to them. The farmers are both required to take the loss on any surplus and to meet any shortfall at their own expense by importing if their own harvest does not meet demand. [...] The prices paid to farmers are nowhere near the cost of carrying a permanent workforce large enough to cope with fluctuations in demand.'
Half the workforce in food and catering are illegals - more than 2 million in the UK, procured and managed by dangerous and greedy gangmasters making more than £8m per year through intimidation, punishment, murder, expanding into prostitution and drug-smuggling. These illegals also travel to Spain - the salad bowl of the UK, where intense farming practices to satisfy our demand have polluted the environment with pesticides and dried out the land, turning it into desert.
'Ninety-nine pence for a few leaves is a lot of money. But 99p for an unlimited supply of servants to wash and pick over it all, hidden not as in the old days below stairs, but in remote caravans or underneath plastic hothouses - that is cheap.'
Food Miles & Transport
We're dependent on crude oil for agrochemicals, plastics and food miles. Tesco in 2002 covered 224,000km in 1.2m lorry journeys. Thirty years has quadrupled the number of products stocked by supermarkets yet the variety they offer is still limited. However, in an effort to cut costs supermarkets prefer to collect their goods from suppliers using their own lorries meaning small independents will have to do the same, contributing to their disappearance from our high streets.
The 'falldown' begins when a customer buys something in one of the [supermarket] stores. Scanning the barcode at the till creates a new order for the product. The information is transmitted to head office, electronically collated several times a day and instantly converted into a delivery schedule for the farmer or manufacturer for the following day. The supplier will have estimated how much food to produce, but will only get a final order a few hours ahead of the time he or she is expected to deliver to the depot...The orders can vary dramatically. A spell of good weather can, for example, double the demand for lettuce. Failing to meet a retailer's order in full can result in a financial penalty. Suppliers can find themselves losing thousands of pounds. But then unexpected rain might halve your order. If you end up with a surplus there's hardly anywhere for it to go, since the big retailers control much of the country's total market.'
To add to the pressure, suppliers can be delisted for refusing price reductions, trade with other supermarkets are restricted, and they're sometimes forced asked to 'contribute to the costs of store refurbishments or openings,' though absorbing volume and customer discounts such as BOGOF pressed upon them, sometimes retrospectively, have to be the most damaging to the health of their businesses. Demands for compensation for anything and everything or just having it deducted from invoices without discussion also screams unfair practice and treatment of suppliers by supermarkets.
So our salad comes from Spain, our veg is also sourced from Africa, and traditional English apples are overlooked in favour of foreign types. Even 80% of organic produce comes from abroad. These food miles actually have a detrimental effect on nutritional value since frozen veg contains more nutrients than fresh imported stuff that's sat countless hours in refrigerated containers.
Less than 2% of bread is made by independent bakers yet a few bake from scratch. The rest rely on the Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP) which involves fats, E numbers, salt and 3% more water taking considerably less time to make than the traditional flour, water, yeast recipe. However, skipping the proving time aggravates gluten allergies - that's how these allergies came about.
Fruit & Veg
'The beauty parade' that disqualifies mildly discoloured or misshapen fruit and veg has led to 40% waste and harvesting earlier and earlier to prevent bruising giving you hard, odourless and tasteless results.
'Each cow may produce twice as many litres of milk a year, each chicken may grow twice as fast, and each hectare of wheat may yield nearly three times as many tonnes as fifty years ago, but in that time, 60 per cent of ancient woodlands, 97 per cent of meadows with their rich flora and fauna, and fifty per cent of birds that depend on agricultural fields have gone, as have nearly 200,000 hedges. Not only has intensive farming polluted water courses, it has also created problems of soil erosion and flood. Industrialization of livestock has left animals prone to devastating epidemics of disease.'
The evils of ready meals and junk food containing corn, sugar, soya, palm and rapeseed oil which are heavily subsidized, are also extolled, though I've all ready been educated on this via Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.
Lawrence, in the Afterword, details ways to improve our food system and future security with policy suggestions and by providing resources for the individual to make an impact, enhancing their health in the process. She also confesses where and what she buys including the occasional ready meal. I find I'm jealous of all the independents like butchers, greengrocers, baker, etc. and farmers' markets located near her. I'd have to travel many miles to find these.
Although I was aware of the enormous pressure on UK farmers and suppliers I didn't fully appreciate the abuse they've suffered at the hands of supermarkets and the need to cut corners in order to survive, yielding a host of further problems including hiring illegal migrant workers who are in turn abused by their gangmasters, and having to import food when they can't meet demand. Fast, cheap food has never been so expensive, not more so when the system inevitably collapses....more
I'm so sorry for laughing and judging you based on how I believed you'd died. Living with Hirschsprung's disease had to be awful, aDear Elvis Presley,
I'm so sorry for laughing and judging you based on how I believed you'd died. Living with Hirschsprung's disease had to be awful, always worrying, always in discomfort. People assuming you were fat when the distended abdomen was a sign you were seriously ill.
Begging your forgiveness,
At autopsy, his colon was "two to three times normal size ... was jam-packed [length-wise]... The impaction had the consistency of clay and seemed to defy Florendo's efforts with the scissors to cut it out." The clayey material, he says, was barium, administered to prep Presley for a set of X-rays - taken four months earlier. "That barium was... Just like a rock." He says the impaction obstructed at least 50 to 60 percent of the diameter of Presley's colon ... [It] had expanded so dramatically [at the end of his career] that it crowded his diaphragm and had begun to compromise his breathing and singing.' Soiling himself on stage happened regularly, he had no control whatsoever because of the disease. 'The resulting arrhythmia [from straining to make a bowel movement] can be fatal ... especially likely to happen to someone, like Elvis, with a compromised heart.' It's a common cause of death but wasn't well-known or understood at the time of Presley's death.
'Stool softeners are administered as a matter of course on coronary-care wards.'
Nasal regurgitation. Fistulated stomachs. Rectal feeding. Holy water enemas. Mythbusting Mary Roach concentrates on the strange, the unethical, and the downright funny aspects of the alimentary canal.
I've learned many things:
✺ Eat more liver. Organs are the most nutritious parts of an animal. ✺ Never take alka seltzer / bicarbonate of soda / baking soda after eating too much. ✺ Never light a match or breathe without apparatus near a manure pit. ✺ Never punch someone in the mouth unless I'm willing to lose a finger. ✺ Anal cancer exists and is contracted the same way as cervical cancer. ✺ A human cannot survive being swallowed by a large fish. Jonah lied. ✺ Fire-breathing dragons snakes are possible under the right conditions. ✺'Humans perceive five tastes - sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami (brothy) - and an almost infinite number of smells. Eighty to ninety percent of the sensory experience is olfaction [smell]. ✺ Never take the ability to smell, taste, or swallow for granted. ✺ 'brachioproctic eroticism' = 'fist-fucking' ✺ To respect the "prison wallet" (rectum). When I need to go, I'm going. I don't want to be constipated. ✺ Never insert an object rectally unless I'm will to lose it up in there.
Well, Roach has covered the three basics of animal biology: feeding, sex, and death. Her witty approach to her subject matter helps the medicine go down, as it were. She makes learning fun by breaking things down into easily digestible bites (puns intended), though there are a few less interesting bits. I wonder what she'll cover next.
*Many thanks to the publisher for the e-ARC in return for an honest review....more