Stimulating Saturdays: What is ethical eating?

To you, what does it mean to eat ethically? Off the top of my head, ethical eating would mean consuming food that has been ethically raised and obtained. Of course, that interpretation alone in and of itself is open to much interpretation. What it means to one person to be “ethically raised” might not be ethical enough for the next person. However, I saw this trailer for a book (yes…I wondered to myself what a ‘book trailer’ is) that made me rethink ethical eating.

The trailer is for the book, Behind the Kitchen Door, by Saru Jayaraman. I haven’t read it yet but it raises a very crucial point: the food that you are eating at a restaurant may meet your definition of ethical eating, but are the people behind the scenes of your food being treated ethically? And if not, can eating at that restaurant still be ethical?

I am not too familiar with the minimum wage situation in the United States but was shocked to see that for tipped workers, the minimum wage is just over $2 per hour. There have also been numerous attempts to have the minimum wage raised, including a campaign by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.

The minimum wage in Canada for all workers is higher than $2 per hour but is still under the poverty line and has been in the media spotlight again recently. In Canada, each of the provinces and territories set their own minimum wage. In the province of Ontario where I live, the provincial government just announced that it will be raising the minimum wage to $11, effective June 1, 2014, ending the freeze that has been in effect since 2010. Decisions on when and by how much to raise the minimum wage have been haphazard in the past. To address this, the provincial government also promised to introduce legislation enabling annual increases to the minimum wage, linked to the rate of inflation, that would be announced each year on April 1 and becoming effective on October 1 of the same year. Critics continue to argue that these announcements by the government are not enough to address the fact that the minimum wage is still below the poverty line (for a person working full time year-round). I can’t imagine only earning $2 per hour at any job. I can’t imagine having to support a family at $11 per hour.

So again, I ask, what does it mean to eat ethically?

Stimulating Saturdays: edX course on Food

I recently learned about a great learning tool called edX. They offer some really interesting online courses  from various universities, such as UC Berkley, MIT, and Harvard, for free.

There is currently a course called Food for Thought (CHEM181X), taught by three professors at McGill University (Montreal, Canada)., covering the basic science behind food and popular issues related to food and health. There are several short video lectures per week, complemented by quizzes and surveys. Your level of participation is completely up to you; there are assignments and an active discussion board for the course as well. Perhaps one of the neat things about this and presumably all edX courses is the diversity in “students”. Just scanning the classroom introductions on the discussion board, there are people from Montreal to California to Mexico to Lebanon.

Stimulating Saturdays: Food Waste

I remember going to an outdoor school in grade 4. We were incredibly fortunate at my school to have access to such a facility. We would all pile into school buses with sleeping bags and outside clothes for a 3 day stay at outdoor school, where we – city kids – would learn about nature (like what the inside of a fish feels like!). At meals, we were assigned chores. Some of us would be responsible for putting together the day’s weather forecast (so that everyone would know how to dress after breakfast), some of us would help prepare and set tables for meals, some of us would clear the table…and that included collecting all of the leftover food to feed the resident pigs. Now, as a 10 year old, I recall seeing the slop of food that we took in metal pails to the pigs and thinking how disgusting it looked, but I also remember the pigs really loving the fare!

Food waste is a complex issue because it arises in so many different facets. Supermarkets getting rid of food because it is no longer saleable, households overbuying food at the supermarket and throwing it out in the garbage, producers losing food because they can’t process it efficiently (just as an example).

Stimulating Saturdays: What do you eat with your food budget?

I really cherish having some very wonderful colleagues (who happen to be lovely friends as well) with whom I can have incredibly engaging and engaged discussions with. Recently, one such conversation spiralled into discussing a documentary I watched called Forks Over Knives (see a trailer here and read an example of a critique here) and then onto the affordability and accessibility of what is referred to as ‘whole foods’ (vegetables, fruits, unprocessed or minimally processed goods) and food desserts. My friend then sent me a link to the Hungry Planet, a series of photographs taken of families around the world, depicting what they eat within a typical week and how much they spent on acquiring the food.

Step back, think about how much money you spend on food each week, and imagine what your photo would look like. A lot of boxes and plastic packages? Or maybe not?

Click here to access the Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (photo essay).

Stimulating Saturdays: Food culture in a food desert

The value of turning land in the middle of a city into a garden is amazing. People who do the gardening and nurture the plants and the land find great joy in the activity, the people passing by and interacting with the garden are affected by their experience with nature, and slowly, food deserts disappear.

Stimulating Saturdays: Calorie counting

I’ve never really been much of a calorie counter. I eat a lot of fruit, homemade meals, and controlled amounts of other goodies (chips, ice cream, the likes) in between. I don’t go on binges and I have a pretty good level of self-control. However, some of my friends count their calories (not too strictly) and often spout off how many calories are in this versus that. When I came across this video, I thought it was a pretty interesting illustration of the calories of what you consume.

Stimulating Saturdays: Smell of Old Books

Okay, so it’s Sunday, not Saturday, but the calendar doesn’t always wait for me….

My friend and I were recently having a conversation about eBooks versus physical books, and luckily for our friendship, we both agreed that physical books were better. The smell, the touch sensation of flipping pages, being able to see how far into the book you are…we appreciate these qualities.

I had also just recently seen the movie, Robot & Frank. Without spoiling the movie, one aspect of it is the closure of the conventional town library and the opening of a reimagined library space in its place. All of the physical books were removed and scanned, since the youngens taking over decided that people just want to be able to access books anywhere via their eReaders.

Which leads me to today’s video on the Last Bookstore, sent to me care of the same friend. It’s a bit long and I often wonder if we would ever go fully in this direction but as you see independent bookstores close their doors, one at time, it doesn’t seem as far-fetched as I used to think.

Click here to see the video.

Stimulating Saturdays: What is “sustainability” again?

There’s a lot of green-washing nowadays, with marketing moving towards green this, natural that, local this, sustainable that. So I thought it would be good to take a step back and remind ourselves of what ‘sustainability’ means as well as what some of the core principles that we should be using for guidance are. It’s a complex topic once you start getting into the weeds (the details) and there are different ways of interpreting and integrating principles of sustainability into your life and your business. It’s also easy to get swayed by effective marketing….

Sustainability: Everything is connected. Allowing for a good quality of life for us now and for the future generations, all around the world.