Getting Philosophical about Food Storage

September 16, 2004 | 61 comments
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The thing is: we don’t eat the kinds of foods that one can store. A large chunk of our grocery purchases consist of fresh fruit, frozen vegetables (not the square carrots!), and cheese. Whenever I feel all penitent and motivated to store more food, I always hit a wall due to the discrepency between what we eat and what can be stored. Thoughts:

(1) We could store the storable equivalents of what we buy (that is, dried fruit, freeze dried vegetables, and powdered cheese). But not only would this be more expensive than buying the less processed equivalents, the quality wouldn’t be similar. We buy lots of extra sharp cheddar and feta, but the only flavors of cheese dust I have ever seen are ‘white’ and ‘yellow.’

(2) We could change our eating habits. Is this really a good idea? Sure, whole grains and beans and other storable things are good for you, but so are fruits, veggies, and cheese.

(3) We could store the stuff that stores, eat what we normally eat, and then either throw out or donate our storage as it nears the end of its lifetime. Expensive, perhaps, but otherwise reasonable.

As you might imagine, this isn’t so much a practical issue for me, but rather a theological one. That is, I wonder if there is something in the practice of food storage that should tell us something about what God wants us to eat. My interpretation of that would differ tremendously based on which of the options I select above. (1) suggests to me that God wants us to eat yucky food, (2) that our current diet is not the best, but at least (3) could have some charitable components to it.

And, by the way, what IS this obsession with storing wheat? Other foods are similarly priced, story about as well, and provide comparable nutritional value. I find it comical to think of all these women who normally buy Wonderbread trying to grind wheat by hand, bake it, and convince their families to eat it in an emergency situation. I have visions of my neighbors dead amongst piles of wheat, while we happily (OK, tolerably happily) eat rice, beans, and an eclectic mix of spices.

61 Responses to Getting Philosophical about Food Storage

  1. Ryan Bell on September 16, 2004 at 3:10 pm

    Julie, I believe Cheetos are the storable equivalent of all your fancy cheeses. And it’s one food storage item that you won’t have trouble getting your kids to eat. I’m thinking about stockpiling them, myself.

  2. Ivan Wolfe on September 16, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    I can’t speak for the whole membership of the church, but I have several buckets of wheat because I got them for free from another member. If I recall correctly, she was moving in with her son and so decided to give away her food storage – and it was all wheat.

    I don’t know why she had all the wheat, but I do because free food is (nearly) always a good thing in my book.

  3. Kaimi on September 16, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    Julie,

    Perhaps it’s a holdover from “wheat for man.” :)

    I’ve had the same concerns about our food storage (or lack thereof). On the positive side, we actually do eat rice, beans, some canned fruits (pears, applesauce), and graham crackers (by the boxful). On the negative side, a whole lot of our actually-eaten food consists of cheese, milk, and fruit.

    Of course, in any real emergency, we would probably die of thirst long before we ran out of food.

  4. danithew on September 16, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    Once the taste for whole wheat bread has been acquired it’s hard to let go of. I still mourn the day my mother stopped making her homemade wheat bread. It’s just too much work and she prefers to spend her time doing genealogy now. I’m still trying to get her to dig into her files r boxes or wherever it would be and find the recipe so that it won’t be entirely lost.

    The writer of the South Beach diet books says that it’s healther to eat icecream than it is to eat Wonder Bread. Thinking his readers might think he is exaggerating, he repeats himself in the book … stating that if you choose between eating a dish of icecream or having some Wonder Bread, choose the icecream.

  5. Ivan Wolfe on September 16, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Kaimi – I’m intrigued by that “thirst” comment.

    Mainly because my parents’ food storage contains several 12 gallon buckets of water – which they clean and re-fill every six months. However –

    In church manuals, firesides, lessons, etc. There is almost no emphasis on water storage. I wonder why?

    Perhaps whoever invents dehydrated water will make a fortune.

  6. LoneWriter on September 16, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Wheat has always been easy to store, stores for a long time, and there are a million ways to use it. Some people think that if the pioneers had simply sprouted their wheat coming across the plains, not as many people would have died from the effects of malnutrition.

    What do we store? We have some wheat, only because it was given to us. We do dry-pack at our local Bishop’s Storehouse, so have quite a few dried foods. We use most of these foods (such as soup mix, beans, and potatoes) in our cooking, so we are constantly rotating our food supply. We also store a lot of tunafish — my husband likes it for sandwiches, and it is a high-protein, low-space, edible-straight-from-the-can food that we could use in emergencies.

    Every family must decide for themselves what to store, then make sure their kids will actually eat the stuff. Whole wheat, suddenly served after years of fast food, can make terrible things happen to the gut!

  7. danithew on September 16, 2004 at 3:22 pm

    Perhaps whoever invents dehydrated water will make a fortune.

    Ivan, have you been listening to Stephen Wright jokes?

  8. danithew on September 16, 2004 at 3:24 pm

    I bought some powdered water, but I didn’t know what to add. — Stephen Wright

    For some other choice Stephen Wright one-liners, go to: http://www.notso.com/wright.htm

  9. Melissa on September 16, 2004 at 3:33 pm

    My family used to store things by the case like cake mixes, peanut butter and jelly, crackers, dried milk, canned peaches, pasta and sauce, beans, macaroni and cheese, diced tomatoes, ketchup and ramen noodles. My parents used to justify this by saying that should an emergency happen the kids would be much happier eating these things and happy kids would make a crisis much easier to deal with. My mother even decided she should stockpile mascara and lipstick for the same reason. Of course we had the wheat too but the key for us was that we actually used our food storage, We regularly “went shopping” in our basement food pantry. We did go through a phase when my parents bought hundreds of freeze-dried dinners, but the mice got to those. Much to our amusement the mice preferred the chicken cacciatore to every other dish. We quickly returned to our cake mix model.

    I think food storage works best when you store food that your family actually eats and enjoys, especially since the emergency for which food storage most often gets used is unforeseen unemployment caused by lay offs, sickness, etc. For that reason I think we sometimes fail to realize that should a real emergency arise we would need a lot more than wheat bread—aspirin, gauze bandages, flashlights for every member of the family, a lot of clean drinking water, diapers for babies, extra blankets, etc.

  10. Mark B on September 16, 2004 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks Danithew, for that supportive post. I’m reaching for the Haagen-Dazs right now.

    The other suggestion for long-term storage of grains came from my ninth grade geography teacher–this is an “only in Utah County” story. He and his buddy, the history teacher in the next room, said that they had solved the food storage problem this way: They took the grain (wheat, corn, rye, barley, whatever), soaked it and mashed it, let it soak some more. Then they boiled it, condensed the vapor and stored that liquid in bottles. (They may have let it age in oaken casks for a while before bottling it.)

    In any event, they reduced all that grain to bottles that were easily stored, and helped them forget the troubles of teaching in a junior high school.

  11. Derek on September 16, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    In a food crisis, I for one am not going to be baking bread. The smell would be a dead giveaway to the neighbors, and since I don’t own a gun, I’d be defenseless. (Also, the yeast will probably have died by then.)

    Rice and beans on the other hand is a complete protein, they store for a long time, they’re easy to prepare with nothing but water and heat, and probably nobody would notice (in times of plenty) if you invited them to dinner and surreptitiously served them some of your food storage.

  12. William Morris on September 16, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    I agree with Derek.

    And would add lentils to his list.

    “I really like lentils. I could eat lentils every day. I wonder how many lentils I’ve ever eaten?”

  13. Clark Goble on September 16, 2004 at 4:12 pm

    Actually I think having a water filter is a great idea for a emergency preparedness. Further you can take it camping with you to purify your water out there. (Unfortunately most streams are contaminated by giardia or similar things now)

  14. Rob on September 16, 2004 at 4:21 pm

    Obvious conclusions from Food Storage and WoW teachings–
    1–our current diets are not the best.
    2–we should store what we eat and eat what we store.
    3–we should grow what we can’t store.

    Most of us suck at this. We eat stuff that is terrible for us and won’t store. If we’ve been taught not to, then this is a sin. Some sins you can repent of, but that still won’t help you out in a crisis.

    We should change what we eat so we are eating what we store. Make our own bread. Grow a garden (some people forgot about that one as soon as we buried SWK).

    It would be cheaper to eat this way (so we’d all be debt free–oops, that’s another commandment).

    We wouldn’t be relying on processed foods with additives put in there by “conspiring men” who just want you to buy their junk.

    We wouldn’t be ruining the agricultural economies of third world countries to get our cheap fresh fruits and veggies out of season (there’s a commandment about not oppressing the poor somewhere).

    Plus we’d lose some weight. I, for one, am carrying around too many obvious signs of my own disobedience to these doctrines.

  15. diogenes on September 16, 2004 at 4:36 pm

    We discovered early in our marriage that the purpose of food storage is to benefit others, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. We moved every couple of years and dutifully stockpiled all the enormously heavy, bulky whole grains and canned items that we were advised to store. Since we typically either had to pay for our own moves, or were sometimes given a very limited moving stipend by employers, we usually had to abandon all the hundreds of pounds of food we had accumulated — it was cheaper to buy it over again when we arrived at the new destination. Typically we found some beneficiary among the struggling graduate students or young families in our ward.

    After losing a good bit of money this way several times — but involuntarily helping our neighbors out a good deal — we finally decided to keep a couple of months’ storage and six months cash reserves on hand. Cash is much more portable, and a lot less wasteful, at least for our circumstances.

  16. Bryce I on September 16, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    To dispel a few myths:

    Baking bread is not hard.

    Men can bake bread.

    Whole wheat bread need not be dense nor strong tasting.

    My father-in-law is the bread baker in his family. His other contribution to food preparation is cleaning the salmon that he catches. He likes his whole wheat bread and learned to make it himself rather than convince his busy wife to do it for him.

    I bake the bread in our family, mostly because my wife complains that it’s too hard to knead the dough, and I haven’t coughed up the dough for a nice bread mixer.

    So we use our food storage wheat at a slow but measurable pace without having to sprout it and make wheat grass juice out of it (shudder).

    It would be nice to be my Alaska in-laws, whose food storage is a more than one year supply of salmon and moose.

  17. Ashleigh on September 16, 2004 at 4:48 pm

    On wheat,
    with the caveat that this is what my dad has said, and he’s generally reliable, but not a wheat scholar or anything:

    Apparently wheat can be stored pretty much forever, while most other things will eventually, some day go bad.
    I remember my dad once saying that they’ve found usable wheat in the pyramids in Egypt. (wonder if it’s true)

  18. danithew on September 16, 2004 at 4:48 pm

    How does moose meat taste? Never had it.

  19. Frank on September 16, 2004 at 5:18 pm

    I’ve always thought its funny that people worry so much about whether they like to eat the food in their food storage. If it gets to the point that we are required to rely on our food storage for survival, we probably won’t be too picky about the foods we are eating.

  20. Steve Evans on September 16, 2004 at 5:26 pm

    I laugh whenever we get food storage lessons here in NYC. My ideal NYC emergency preparedness kit is composed of three elements:

    1. an inflatable raft
    2. $5,000 in cash/gold/equivalents
    3. a loaded firearm and ammunition

    If the crap really comes down around here, that’s what you’d REALLY need. You can keep your wheat, folks!

  21. obi-wan on September 16, 2004 at 6:14 pm

    If it gets to the point that we are required to rely on our food storage for survival, we probably won’t be too picky about the foods we are eating.

    Unfortunately, this is demonstrably untrue, even in a severe disaster — as U.S. aid agencies have discovered when they, say, deliver wheat to countries where rice is the cultural staple. Even starving people won’t eat unfamiliar foods. This is particularly the case for children.

    Worse, when they do, it can make them extremely ill. I think someone in this thread already mentioned the bad gastrointestinal effects of suddely shifting to a whole-wheat diet.

    For North American Saints, the most likely “disaster” use for food storage is sudden unemployment. And kids aren’t going to like TVP tacos any better just because dad or mom lost thier job.

    Store what you normally eat. You’ll just end up throwing it away otherwise.

  22. Chad Too on September 16, 2004 at 6:24 pm

    I’ve heard you really only need a 3-month supply because it’ll be a month before you’re hungry enough to eat the stuff and after 3-months of eating nothing else, you’d rather die. ;-)

  23. Lisa on September 16, 2004 at 6:41 pm

    Julie —
    We try to eat out of our food storage once or twice a week in the winter — Somehow it is too hard to eat much of it in the summer when the garden is full of so many good things. We don’t store whole wheat yet — just rice, beans and lentils. Soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and all kinds of good dried mushrooms and other Asian groceries are great for storing. Dried tomatoes and peppers, as well as those packed in oil are also terrific for spicing up the staple ingredients. I also store oats, cracked wheat, and cornmeal for hot cereals, and we eat those all the time. Lest you think I am the food storage goddess, I am not, We maybe have 3 or 4 months of food.

  24. Ivan Wolfe on September 16, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    Coming from someone who grew up in Alaska, Moose meat is very tasty. Reindeer sausage is also very, very good.

    My parent’s food storage contains quite a bit of vacuum packed smoked salmon and halibut.

    I really hope I can get a job in Alaska once this PhD thing is over. The food storage there can be much tastier.

  25. Nate Oman on September 16, 2004 at 6:54 pm

    Rob: “It would be cheaper to eat this way (so we’d all be debt free–oops, that’s another commandment).”

    Not everyone lives in Texas. There are places where gardens are very expensive. Any idea what a patch of dirt costs in DC, LA, or New York?

  26. Bryce I on September 16, 2004 at 7:10 pm

    On moose meat: I second Ivan on the moose and the reindeer sausage (although picking those sleigh bells out of the sausage can be a pain). Moose tastes like beef, not chicken.

    My wife no longer likes moose after her last encounter with it. We were in Alaska at her parents’ house for Sunday dinner with the rest of the family, and the entree was roast moose. Kristen made the mistake of asking where the moose came from, expecting to find out had gone out hunting. To her surprise, the answer was that it was roadkill.

    Apparently the highway department has a roadkill harvesting program, wherein groups can sign up to be on call to harvest meat from unfortunate animals killed by cars. My in-laws’ ward had signed up for the program, and they had responded to a call. Voila — instant food storage.

    I shudder to think of what a roadkill harvest program in New York might produce.

  27. Ivan Wolfe on September 16, 2004 at 7:47 pm

    Ah, yes – the roadkill harvest program.

    I remember when I was a deacon adn our bishop contributed mightily to that program. He (or members of his family) hit, IIRC, four moose within a two week period.

    Some joked that he was just doing his community service by trying to provide a source of food for the community.

  28. Ethesis (Stephen M) on September 16, 2004 at 11:29 pm

    Well, I’ve eaten a lot of Moose and Caribou. I prefer beef. I hunt at Albertsons. 4 years in Alaska, 2 in Newfoundland as a kid (dad was USAF).

    However, after I buried Robin, things were pretty tough and we rotated a lot of food storage. We’ve always stored candy, spices, rice and beans (the beans can get pretty tough if they aren’t sealed right). Still have some cocoa in the food storage, though since I discovered I was alergic to Chocolate I’ve lost interest in keeping that up. At one time I had about thirty #10 cans of specialty cocoa.

    One thing I’ve done is stored flour (it sometimes goes bad though) and stored it in the freezer (where it lasts fairly well). If you take to buying bulk at SAMS or COSTCO you can find yourself with a few months storeage on hand rather easy. Dry pack yeast stores rather well in the freezer too. I’d make more bread but we eat too much when I do.

    As for “they’ve found usable wheat in the pyramids in Egypt. (wonder if it’s true)” Yes, it is true. At least wheat that would sprout and bear seed, useful for planting and obtaining reference DNA and plants for wheat as it was then.

    Interesting discussion. BTW, the value of donating food storage you’ve decided doesn’t fit you can’t be overstated. A lot of people can be very happy to get food storage. Even the orange powder that is supposed to replace Tang.

  29. Julie in Austin on September 17, 2004 at 1:06 am

    Rob–

    That all sounds well and good except that it violates a commandment I just made up about not oppressing women. I have stewardship over my time, and I absolutely cannot justify the time spent in a garden growing my own vegetables (while my children dirty clothes that I will need to wash) when I can buy a pound of frozen Thai veggie mix for 1.48.

    And I forgot two ideas for the original post:

    (1) Handy storage tip of the day: get rid of your bed frame and box spring and replace with 18 gallon Rubbermaid totes. We just got a king size bed and did this–that’s 15 boxes of food storage and random junk out of the way. The height is within an inch of a standard bed.

    (2) We’ve also discussed the merits of storing cigarettes. To trade, you know?

  30. Mike on September 17, 2004 at 6:40 am

    I wish that I had started a garden. The excuse was always that I wouldn’t be here long enough for it to be worth it.
    I think that it is a positive to use your food storage as much as possible, and also think the reason we hear more about food than about water is because the biggest reason for the food storage is self sufficiency and the most common emergency is losing a job. Plus a food storage plan in many ways focuses on the budget of what is being eaten and can save money.

    I think that gardening could potentially help save money, but as Julie states it isn’t always for every one, and in fact is often less cost efficient. I do however disagree with Nate on it being too expensive to garden in urban areas. There are so many good community gardens in most big cities that I think if the time investment is worth while the monetary requirements are not prohibitive. http://www.communitygarden.org/

  31. John Mansfield on September 17, 2004 at 8:05 am

    One use of grain is animal feed. We had a dozen chickens, and some old wheat had been given to us. With a move coming this last year, moving these things was not wise. So the chickens used up the wheat, and we used up the chickens.

    One side benefit of “storing” live meat was the children’s enjoyment of chasing the supply around the yard.

  32. Mark B on September 17, 2004 at 9:32 am

    Julie’s comment about storing cigarettes reminds me of my father’s stories of post-war Vienna.

    The American GI’s received a carton of cigarettes each week as part of their rations, and the five or six Mormon soldiers generally gave theirs to the Viennese members of the little branch. That eased their suffering considerably, especially in the harsh winter of 1945-46 when there was little food, not much fuel for heating or cooking, and a lot of damaged buildings that provided less than adequate shelter from the elements.

    Apparently not all of the cigarettes were given away. One Sunday school class (just American GIs) broke up when one soldier asked the question whether they should pay tithing on their black market income.

  33. Russell Arben Fox on September 17, 2004 at 10:01 am

    Julie,

    I don’t go anywhere as far as Rob does in attempting to lay down his agrarian/Zion/the-(economic)-world-lieth-in-sin standard, but I can’t help but respond, in what I think would be his spirit, to your last comment:

    “That all sounds well and good except that it violates a commandment I just made up about not oppressing women. I have stewardship over my time, and I absolutely cannot justify the time spent in a garden growing my own vegetables (while my children dirty clothes that I will need to wash) when I can buy a pound of frozen Thai veggie mix for 1.48.”

    While your point about gardens making more work for homemakers is indisputedly correct (assuming, that is, that the wage-earner(s) in the family continue(s) to act on the assumption that joining the full-time, demanding, ever-expanding, professional rat-race is the only viable wage-earning option), I have to wonder, considering exactly what the gender of many, if not most, of the the low-skilled, terribly paid workers who will be growing, freezing, and shipping that veggie mix is likely to be, if your comment doesn’t contain a contradiction. Just a thought.

    Regarding using one’s under-the-bed-space as storage, Melissa and I were just talking about that last night. A lot of families in our ward apparently do that. I hadn’t thought of it before; it’s a good idea.

  34. danithew on September 17, 2004 at 10:50 am

    I’m still pursuing my mother’s wheat bread recipe but so far no luck. We’ll see if she can find it in her files somewhere — though she’s saying it could take years to go through them all.

    Two tips she told me about her recipe though. She said that she added soy for protein and lecithin to make the bread light rather than heavy.

  35. Rob on September 17, 2004 at 11:29 am

    On the cost of gardening in cities:
    Amen, but maybe that’s another reason why big cities and their economies are of the devil. If you can’t afford to obey a commandment there, then maybe you shouldn’t be there.

    On oppressing women:
    Some women feel oppressed if they can’t splash down with some wine after putting the kids to bed. Its all a matter of perspective. I have three young kids and don’t have a garden. But that’s because my own priorities are messed up, and I recognize that. Like everyone else, I’m struggling to find a way to live the way we have been taught.

    On water storage:
    This is probably as important if not more important as food storage for most people. If you are on a municipal water system, you have a pretty good chance of having problems with your water at some point. Water contamination is a big deal in many parts of the country, and if there is a big storm event, and you lose electricity, you may also lose water.

    Our urban economy is unsustainabile. That means we won’t be able to keep it going for long because it is based on too many inequalities, we have no food security (our food comes from…I bet you don’t even know where), and its production depends on too many variables that could go wrong. Our food supply is one of our weekest links as a society.

    We need to wean ourselves from the teat of industrial foods. Of course, not many of us will do that because our whole lifestyle revolves around cheap quick food.

    The WoW and Food Storage and Gardening are three of the most important commandments…and the most often broken. Why are they so important? A religion that can’t save people in this life can’t save you in the life to come–a very unpopular teaching from JS.

    If you don’t have food storage, you won’t survive if there is a plague, flood, extended power outage, massive civil unrest, etc. That may sound overly apocalpytic…but it happens over and over throughout history, and the U.S. is overdue for some major problems.

    Meanwhile, if you are living far away from your extended family, and your job is insecure, you don’t need to wait for “The Big One” to be concerned about your food storage.

    If you care about your health, you should be worried about what corporate foods you are putting in your mouth. It won’t kill you tomorrow. But over a lifetime, your food probably will. Heart disease is the biggest killer–and your diet has as much to do with that as anything. Ditto many cancers.

    I tell my kids not to eat candy they find on the ground because they don’t know where it has been. Do you know where your food has been? How its produced? What additives are in there? Or what they will do to you?

    Back in the day, when we made our own food, we didn’t have that problem. Granted it wasn’t as convenient. But we pay a very high price for our convenience. And we externalize many of those costs to poorer countries. Tell Mexican farmers how sorry you are that they can’t afford corn because of the export market. Just go down to your local office park…you’ll find his son doing the landscaping or his daughter doing the night cleaning. Rural economies crashing in Mexico are a huge push factor for illegal immigration into the U.S.

    And immigration into the U.S. drives half of all suburban sprawl (read, environmental degradation). Of course, some folks see this immigration as a great thing. More houses. More house building. Booming economies.

    Yeah, some folks will get rich. But only at higher costs to taxpayers (new subdivisions do not pay for themselves…their services are more expensive than the taxes they produce, forest products from the National Forests are produced at huge public subsidies, habitats are destroyed, etc.).

    Its all connected. And it starts with you opening up that bag of frozen veggies.

    Don’t even get me started on the environmental and social costs of producing the electricity needed for your kitchen freezer…

  36. Kaimi on September 17, 2004 at 11:50 am

    Steve,

    Inflatable rafts have limited nutritional value.

  37. danithew on September 17, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    Steve’s ideas of what he’d need for self-protection and survival after a catclysm in New York sound like the basis of a great first-person-shooter videogame.

    Bryce, you said you shuddered at what a roadkill program in New York might produce. When you get a chance, ask Jeff H. about the time he was driving his jeep (no doors on, no roof either) from my place in White Plains to somewhere else. I was in the front passenger seat and because there was no door obscuring my view I was able to see all the action as a raccoon suddenly dashed out from under some bushes and ran directly and exactly under the right-front-wheel of the jeep (going least 35mph). The raccoon shrieked and presumably died on the spot. I was worried the animal was suffering and thought we ought to drive back and “make sure” it was dead. Jeff thought I was nutty and continued on. Now I realize I should have been trying to preserve the meat.

    In addition to raccoons there are the squirrels and skunks as well as the domesticated animals (dogs, cats) that sometimes get out. I almost never saw deer in NY and certainly never saw a moose. I’m afraid NY drivers wouldn’t have much desirable meet to offer to the roadkill program.

    One of my friends (in Israel) had an American cookbook that was old and pretty comprehensive. It contained recipes for how to prepare a wide variety of animals for cooking — including raccoon and squirrel … just about anything you could imagine. I would read the recipes for pure entertainment. I remember one recipe that required that a racoon be “quartered” before being cooked or baked.

  38. Rob on September 17, 2004 at 1:15 pm

    According to one of my friends who studies these things, raccoons carry some pretty nasty parasitic worms,and you want to be careful when you cook raccoons. He says they taste pretty good, much better than cat, which apparently has a strong kitty-litter aftertaste–but can be OK with teriyaki or strong BBQ sauce.

    BTW, this friend is working on a survival book, and he’s much more concerned about food additives than surviving a disaster. One very interesting thing I learned from him was danger of aspartame–and the connection between aspartame and Donald Rumsfeld. Great lessons on conspiring men for anyone interested in the soda WoW debate.

    Another nasty processed food threat is MSG.

    And then there are transfatty acids. According to ,a href=”http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/reviews/transfats.html”>one report,
    Based on the available metabolic studies, we estimated in a 1994 report that approximately 30,000 premature coronary heart disease deaths annually could be attributable to consumption of trans fatty acids.
    .

    Best advice on eating healthy…fruits and veggies in season, little meat, grains…all the WoW stuff. Avoid processed foods and the conspiring men who make them.

    I was going to write something more about pesticides on fruit grown industrially so we can have it “out of season” but its lunchtime. Got to go warm up that can of soup.

    Just shoot me now!

  39. Bryce I on September 17, 2004 at 1:28 pm

    Apparently in Oregon, >it’s illegal to harvest roadkill.

    Oregon residents, please call your local lawmaker and have your rights restored to you!

  40. Bryce I on September 17, 2004 at 1:29 pm

    Let’s try that again.

    link to article

  41. Kristine on September 17, 2004 at 4:07 pm

    A propos of nothing, my favorite roadkill joke from Tennessee:

    Why did the chicken cross the road?

    To show the possum it could be done.

  42. Kaimi on September 17, 2004 at 4:16 pm

    Danithew,

    Don’t forget about rat-kill. Of course, there’s not a whole lot of meat left when a rat gets hit by an A-train. . .

  43. danithew on September 17, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    LOL Kaimi, thanks for that imagery. :)

  44. Julie in Austin on September 17, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    Russell–

    In theory, I think you make an excellent point. (You may have read the Atlantic Monthly cover a few months back that explored the fact that most ‘liberated’ American women have purchased their liberation via housekeeping and child care on the backs of women from developing countries.)

    On the other hand, let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s say that a recently enlightened me and cohort decide to start gardening and stop buying our Thai veggies. What happens to our oppressed woman? Does she think, “Great! Now that I don’t have to process their veggies anymore, I can get back to my work in biomedical engineering?” My suspicion is that she is currently working the best job she can find, and if that job disappears, her condition will only worsen.

  45. VeritasLiberat on September 17, 2004 at 9:19 pm

    I wonder if it’s legal to harvest roadkill in New Jersey. On my thirty-minute commute down 22/287 to New Brunswick, I see at least one dead deer a day (sometimes four or five).

    New Jersey has deer like normal states have squirrels.

  46. Rob on September 18, 2004 at 12:42 pm

    Julie asks:
    What happens to our oppressed woman? Does she think, “Great! Now that I don’t have to process their veggies anymore, I can get back to my work in biomedical engineering?� My suspicion is that she is currently working the best job she can find, and if that job disappears, her condition will only worsen.

    If you care so much about that woman’s working conditions, how much have you done to work to bring up her standard of living? Are you lobbying for increasing the minimum wage? Are you working to alleviate poverty in rural Mexico and other places where these people are being pushed out?

    Don’t we have a double standard in the Church? A good middle class lifestyle is the ideal–so menial jobs are for those who won’t accept the gospel. If we all spent a little more time thinking about the golden rule, maybe we wouldn’t be so glib with our talk about improving people’s lives with poor-paying jobs so we can enjoy cheap food and Wal-Mart roll backs.

    Brigham Young used to complain about the brother who would thank the Lord for his good fortune after cheating a poor widow out of her last milk cow. How often are we happy to be Americans and to have such a high standard of living without considering the poor people we are oppressing to get our “good luck”.

    I’m afraid the Lord will say to me one day, hope you enjoyed all those cheap consumer goods, cause that’s your reward. Now I gotta go bless some poor.

  47. Rob on September 18, 2004 at 5:47 pm

    Julie, in re-reading my post, it seems a bit strident. It wasn’t meant as a personal attack on anyone. Just pointing out that we may be too quick to dismiss the way our (especially my own) lifestyles are dependent on the subjugation of others.

  48. Julie in Austin on September 18, 2004 at 10:42 pm

    Rob–

    I choose not to use my consumer choices as a resource for charitable giving, because I am convinced that, for example, paying three times the prices for my veggies at Whole Foods will actually result in a ‘trickle down’ of economic abundance that would affect our woman in the developing world in any meaningful way.

    I wonder if it is even appropriate to defend myself here, and I do appreciate your post #47 since #46 did come off as a personal attack, but I suppose I would like the record to reflect that we donate to groups like Habitat for Humanity, Doctors without Borders, the Heifer Project, and another group that does microloans, can’t think of the name right now.

    I dispute the premise the consumer choices are the only way to act charitably. When you attack ‘cheap consumer goods’, is the solution really to go out and buy ‘expensive consumer goods’?

  49. Julie in Austin on September 18, 2004 at 10:52 pm

    Oops, that should be NOT convinced that paying three times . . . etc.

  50. Rob on September 20, 2004 at 11:12 am

    Julie: You’re right, Whole Foods isn’t in the “provide a good living for agricultural workers” business. You’re also right in that consumer choices are not the only way to act charitably. However, though we need to do more than just “shop responsibly”, not examining the consequences of our consumer choices may be a significant sin of ommission.

    I would love to see more discussion along the lines of “how do our spending and lifestyle choices build or not build Zion?”

    I get the feeling that many people see Zion as strictly a Church program kind of thing, rather than a holistic project to build sustainable and equitable society. Do we feel like we are free to do whatever we want unless the Church says something? This goes to the bigger issue of living the gospel, and for that matter, what is the gospel? Is it a complete plan for living a Christlike life and creating a Zion society? Or is it just a bunch of organizational standards by which we can make ingroup and outgroup distinctions? Suggestions for making your life better?

    Julie, I’m glad you brought up this topic, as I try to subscribe to a holistic view of the gospel that gives moral significance and weight to every decision I make–from eating a candy bar to turning on (or off) the television. Not that I want to create a whole bunch of new ways to judge each other, I just want to discuss how our every decision moves us closer or farther away from Zion.

    Personally, I see a lot of room for improvement in my own life, and I’m not sure how to extract myself, or to what extent I need to extract myself, from socioeconomic systems that are oppressive or give me greater benefit at the cost of denying that benefit to others.

    I would also like to see more exploration on this list, rather than mere statement of previously held convictions. I’d like to see more challenging questions posed, and movements to work towards answers. Sometimes I wonder if blogging itself is just a waste of time. Is our blogging building Zion? Raising real issues that change the way anyone things? Moving people towards exploring new ideas? Or merely another exercise in drawing lines in the virtual sand?

    Maybe I have too high of expectations? Maybe this is really just a diversion and I should get back to finishing my dissertation.

    Oh well, maybe this thread is dying down and we’ll have to pick up the conversation again when it pops up on another post.

  51. Kristine on September 20, 2004 at 1:55 pm

    I should probably let Rob have the last word, but I can’t refrain from pointing out that Whole Foods does at least pay its employees more fairly than Wal-Mart. It’s true that we can’t necessarily make choices that will benefit an agricultural worker a continent away, but I think we can at least try to patronize establishments that pay a living wage to their employees–that’s measurable and well within our sphere of influence as shoppers.

  52. Bryce I on September 20, 2004 at 2:17 pm

    Kristine, I should point out that Whole Foods isn’t exactly a worker’s paradise. They are pretty aggressively anti-union.

    Link to Whole Foods Workers Unite, self-described as “the o­nly web site operated by and for Whole Foods workers committed to improving the working conditions for all of us.” It’s an organizing site for Whole Foods workers.

    A Google search for “whole foods union” yields lots of information about Whole Foods efforts to supress organizing efforts.

    Our local organic supermarket was bought out by Whole Foods a few years ago. Whole Foods is definitely a profit-driven corporation. Nothing wrong with that, except that some of their actions and policies are at odds with the corporate image that they try to project, and with the general sensibilities of much of their clientele. They are not in the business of helping out Third World migrant workers.

    Depending on where you live, a good alternative to Whole Foods and Walmart is community-supported agriculture, in which consumers buy shares in local farms, entitling them to a share of the output, while sharing some of the risk of farming — if the crop is good, your share is good. If not, then you don’t get much. It reduces the exposure to risk of the small farmer, making it possible for small farms to stay in business, and decreasing the loss of farmland. It also gives the investors access to locally grown produce, and to have a say in what gets produced.

  53. Greg on September 20, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    Bryce I,
    Whole Foods certainly does not want a union (companies never do), but as I understand it union organizing has been generally unsuccessful at Whole Foods because they invest far more than their competitors in workers’ wages and benefits.

  54. Linda on September 20, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    Just for fun my husband decided that we would live off our food storage begining the Jan. 1st a few year ago. We did allow ourselves to cook with the stove and microwave, and we did take water from the tap. Here are the results:

    1. All the fresh meat and vegetables were gone by the end of the first money. In fact, the refrigerator was completely empty, and all leftovers were eaten with joy rather than being thrown away.

    2. All food from the freezer(s) were gone by the end of the second month. Homemade bread become our daily staple during this month, and we began for the first time in our lives to seriously dig into our “year supple of food”.

    3. By third month, March, it was only our food supply. We recognized with singular clarity the shortcomings of our food supply.

    4. On April 1st we stopped our family experiment and went out to eat.

    What did we learn?

    1. Live without butter suck. (we could not eat the powdered butter)
    2. The ability to make good bread and mix good milk are essential
    3. Our family, espeically the kids, learned the value of food and this project became the obvious focus of our day to day living, as it required more help on their part if they wanted to eat.
    4. We kept a list of all the things we wished we had had on the refrigerator, and when the experiment was over, we quickly supplimented our food supply with things that missed soooooo much.
    5. Lastly, and perhaps most important…..we learned that we could indeed surive off our food storage. We wouldn’t be happy with our limited choices, but we would live none the less.

    Final note. We all gained weight during the 3 months because of all the carbs, but we recommend the exercize to everyone.

    Linda

  55. Kristine on September 20, 2004 at 3:49 pm

    Bryce, I’m not shilling for Whole Foods; I handed out leaflets in front of their first store in Ann Arbor when it drove the local co-op out of business. I belong to a local organic foods co-op and a cooperative farm and I’m happy that I’m not the only Mormon who likes that model :) . Still, by any comparison, Whole Foods’ workers are LOTS better off than Wal-Mart’s, or any other large grocery chain’s.

  56. Julie in Austin on September 20, 2004 at 5:55 pm

    I, too, *loved* our community-supported ag co-op in CA. (Technically, it was the university’s experimental farm.) However, driving one mile for food from CA’s central(ish) valley spoils one–in Austin, it would be a 20 mile drive. Worth it? What about all that gas?

    As for the Wal-Mart vs. Whole Foods vs . . . .

    The one card I never see played is that Wal-Mart makes it possible for the poor *in your own community* to purchase what they need at a lower price. I’m not going to say that that is worth gouging one’s employees for, but it is another factor. I think they deserve some points for providing the working poor with inexpensive necessities. Especially for people without cars, all-in-one-place shopping is a blessing.

    Also, purely anecdotal: in the smallish town where a relative lives, she has a close friend who teaches high school, but only part time because that is all she can get at the school. Her second part time job? Wal-Mart, the only part-time employer in town that offers health benefits. (The school doesn’t, for part-time workers.)

    I refuse to take on the Defender of Wal-Mart mantle, because a lot of what they do isn’t right, my point here is simply to suggest that if you look at the entire picture, the whole situation is pretty dang complicated and well beyond pat answers and good companies vs. evil companies.

  57. Randy on September 20, 2004 at 6:07 pm

    I think Julie makes a good point. Around here, some folks call “Whole Foods” “Whole Paycheck.”

  58. Bryce I on September 20, 2004 at 8:34 pm

    Julie said:

    Especially for people without cars, all-in-one-place shopping is a blessing.

    relatively poor graduate student, I find myself going to Walmart on a regular basis. I do so with some shame that I am consciously aware of every time I visit, knowing a bit about the economy that I am helping to perpetuate by doing do. Hypocritical of me, but Walmart manages to separate me from the consequences of my choices well enough to keep me going there.

    As to the quote above, Walmart (especially Super Walmart) may make for a convenient shopping trip for those without cars, but it is the rise of the big box retailers that makes cars necessary for shopping in small communities in the first place. Small neighborhood stores are the first to go when Walmart arrives in the community. Anyone who lives in an area fighting sprawl knows how it works. Planners in the Triangle are forever trying to create “walkable communities” where you can do your marketing without driving. Alas, all we succeed in doing is attracting not one, but two Super Targets.

    Whole Foods creeps me out. They have the cheapest rice milk around, though.

    Boy, I’m sounding curmudgeonly tonight.

  59. Julie in Austin on September 20, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    Bryce I–

    A hypothetical: if the SWM near you disappeared, would there be a grocery store for you or other car-less people within walking distance?

    Super Wal-Mart didn’t invent sprawl. (Of course, they contribute to it. I’d really like to see them design their stores so that the parking is under the store. There is a Safeway like that in Berkeley, with an amazingly small footprint for a full-size grocery store.) I’m thinking of a SWM in Austin that borders a poor area of town: there is a bus line right up to it, and the few times I have been in there, it does seem that poorer people are using the bus to get there. I am not very familiar with the poorer part of Austin, but I know in general one of the complaints about inner-city neighborhoods is the inavailability of fresh foods, or really any groceries except at convenience stores. Again, some credit (but not a lot!) is due Wal-Mart.

  60. Russell Arben Fox on September 20, 2004 at 10:18 pm

    One of these days (but not today) I’m going to have to write a long post on my own blog about Wal-Mart, and how shopping there (as Melissa and I have done almost weekly for the last four years, ever since we moved from Virginia to Mississippi and then Arkansas) forces one to confront the deepest and most difficult contradition in any viable egalitarian but also populist worldview. The facts are pretty straightforward: Wal-Mart (and other huge retail centers like it) exploits labor, depresses wages, busts unions, traffics in illegal workers, bankrupts locally owned businesses, and undermines property values in areas where often the poor and working class are most vulnerable. Moreover, it is a central link in the globalist chain which strains the economic self-sufficiency of local communities, and creates further incentives for far-flung populations to submit themselves to what Thomas Friedman called the “Golden Straightjacket” of American consumer demand and economic dominance. So what’s good about Wal-Mart? Easy: it delivers goods. The genius of Sam Walton was pushing and pushing (it not always admirable ways) a corporate model of intergrated manufacturing, buying, shipping and selling that actually made it possible for lamps and staplers and vaccum cleaners and bananas and bratwurst and organic tomatos to be made available to the rural poor across the south and midwest. Yes, you can a mourn the corner store, and you should, but you shouldn’t do so without recognizing what was gained. The local corner store was a more economically and communally sustainable enterprise, but it never had pears. Nor sandpaper. Nor exercise bras. Nor wading pools. Nor english muffins. They didn’t, couldn’t deliver, in other words; before Wal-Mart, small town folks where wages were lousy made trips once or twice or three times a year to the big city, and the rest of the time did without. Wal-Mart changed that. As much as Wal-Mart bothers us, and it does, Melissa and I recognize that if wasn’t for SaM Walton’s creation, many of the basic goods available in any urban area in the U.S. would be denied us, and our neighbors. To attack Wal-Mart for doing what it does best–that is, providing affordable goods in areas where alternate retail options for the bulk of the (poor) population are minimal or out of reach, would be more than the height of self-aggrandizing urban-refugee middle-class pretentiousness; it’d be a slap in our and our neighbors’ faces.

    I’m far from convinced that Super Wal-Marts, or any of the big box retailers, have anything to contribute to urban areas, at least not functioning ones. (Where retail has already all fled to the suburbs and public transportation has decayed to the bare minimum, I suppose a SWM taking up a whole city block is better than nothing.) But I can’t criticize Wal-Mart in principle the way I used to, simply because I understand better now the economic alienation of redneck farming towns that Wal-Mart aimed, quite successfully, to address.

    (Sorry for the long comment. Maybe I won’t have to write that post after all.)

  61. Bryce I on September 20, 2004 at 10:39 pm

    Julie –

    I don’t want to put you in the uncomfortable position of being the Wal-Mart apologist, and you picked the wrong person to ask your hypothetical of given that I live in Durham, North Carolina, but since you asked…

    1. Sprawl isn’t a function of the size of the big box, but rather of the location (I’m trying to understand your point about parking spaces, and I think this is what you’re saying. Correct me if I’m mistaken). Sprawl refers (in part) to the phenomenon of retail moving out of urban centers and residential neighborhoods to strip malls and other areas that are disconnected from where people actually live. If you want to have a big box store, it’s much cheaper to locate it where real estate is cheap — land costs less, and it’s much easier to get the proper zoning. The big boxes have economies of scale that smaller retailers can’t compete with, and they shut down, leaving the big boxes to dominate. In addition, other businesses have learned that the best place to locate is right next to the Super Walmart, or the new shopping mall, or the whatever, because shoppers are going there to spend money. The net result is that retail moves outside of the city to vast tracts of land in the suburbs.

    If you prefer to live in a neighborhood with smaller stores that are within walking distance, or at least a very short drive, instead of five or ten miles away to the local retail complex, and Walmart has moved into your town, chances are, if you life in a small city, you don’t have a choice. Walmart is your only option, because the competition is out of business.

    While you’re right about Walmart not inventing sprawl, they’ve become adept at coming into a town and eliminating local competition, to the point where they’ve become a potent symbol for the forces driving sprawl.

    As for where I live, I am fortunate to live in an area that used to be a retail center in the 1970s, before things got really bad, so I live within 2 miles of 2 Krogers, a Harris Teeter, a Food Lion, a Kmart, a Sam’s Club, and a Super Target, all surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The Super Target and the Sam’s Club are new this year, however, and one of our Krogers is shutting down as a result. We also have a wonderful bakery and a terrific butcher within a couple of miles. The Super Walmarts and Super Targets are only just starting to appear in this area.

    As for poorer neighborhoods, Walmart is pretty careful about their locations, as are all successful retailers. We have quite a few poor neighborhoods in Durham. One of them just got their first chain grocery store, a Food Lion, after years of negotiations with various other chains, none of whom wanted to place a store in the neighborhood — it just wasn’t worth it to them. Walmart is certainly nowhere near there.

    Walmart didn’t drive out the local grocery stores here — that happened a long time ago. It is emblematic of a larger problem, however. And I certainly sympathize with any small community fighting to keep Walmart out of town. Walmarts are not necessarily bad for a community, but they do cause massive changes to small town economies, and once they’re in, you can’t undo the changes.