Saturday, January 26, 2008

Food, Glorious (??) Food

I don't think I've written about food before, but two things have caught my attention lately. There's been a brouhaha about the enormous amount of mercury in the tuna in sushi served in NYC restaurants. I like sushi but not the raw tuna kind -- all the raw red foods I like are in the fruit family. Do that doesn't worry me in a personal sense. However, I try to eat healthily and that means fish at least once a week. While I like canned tuna and also fresh tuna I don't eat it very often. The question that comes up for me is the fish I've been buying at the dollar store I frequent. It's frozen in individual servings, very nice pieces of tilapia, flounder or salmon. A serving of good fish for a dollar is a major bargain, and it's delicious however I've prepared it. The thing is, it comes from China, is farmed and I suspect has plenty of both mercury and whatever antibiotics fish farms use to grow their fish quickly. I really don't know how healthy it is. Of course, with other fish I might buy I also don't know what I'm eating. It seems, in fact, for the most part none of us have a good handle on what's in our food.

Another subject to do with food is on my mind tonight because I just finished reading the long, thoughtful and multi-layered article in the NYTimes Magazine (tomorrow's paper) called "A Dying Breed" by Andrew Rice about the stunning looking ankole cattle of Uganda that are being replaced by Holsteins because the Holsteins, though not suited to living in equatorial climates, nevertheless, produce far, far more milk. So small farmers prefer them -- except the markets for their milk are inadequate. In all the article points out layers of complication when both World Bank and aid organizations and big industry [cattle insemination is a VERY big industry] go into a country. So much I read in papers is top of the mind and one-sided. This article looks at the question from many angles and is very thought provoking. I guess it first caught my attention because, growing up on a farm, one of my early "sex education" lessons was that cattle can be "artificially inseminated." I think I both knew and didn't know what that meant and found it fascinating. It's quite amazing, really. The article mentions two Holstein bulls whose seaman has produced thousand of cattle and tens of thousand of mixed-gene second generation offspring. Makes me think of the feat of Genghis Khan's [without artificial insemination] of giving a portion of his genes to a quarter of the people in China today. Isn't it amazing, the things that we know about today?

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