Sunday, October 30, 2011

"I'm Having An Old Friend For Dinner"

             Most people have read stories about an individual’s death-defying experience and the extreme lengths he or she went to in order to survive, whether it be drinking urine, eating bugs, or even dismembering a body part. Seldom do we hear of people eating other people in these types of situations… or perhaps we do not allow ourselves to believe it. People eating seems to be something more common in myth and literature than in real life. According to Peggy McCracken, in her lecture “Eating Others”, passengers who survived the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 wreckage in October 1972 fed off of the deceased passengers due to a dearth of food. Though considered both a sacrilegious and atrocious act, does eating other people become acceptable under such dire circumstances? Revisiting the lecture concerning the ethics of eating, do people have the right to eat others? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Food: Constructed by Culture

           Though food’s basic function is to fuel the human body with nutrients, its uses, forms, preparation, and prevalence varies from culture to culture. Fundamentally, people choose what they do or do not eat depending on cultural, religious, historic, economic factors, not just by flavors, textures, or the nutritional value. Consider how Hindus refuse to eat beef, some Jews follow a kosher diet, and only the most affluent people eat caviar. Moreover, food that appears “disgusting” or unusual to foreigners serves as a cultural marker, or an indication of who belongs to a specific culture and who does not.
Jason DeLeon’s lecture, which discussed the anthropological approaches to food and water, stressed that the foods we prefer, what they are paired with, and how we experience them are all influenced by our unique cultures.  His presentation reminded me of my travels to countries in Europe and Asia, and how I was exposed to novel and exotic foods as well as peculiar practices for eating that differs entirely from those in the United States. I learned that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day after my trip to Italy, for breakfast is generally a light meal consisting of coffee and bread and jam. Lunch, rather, is usually the largest meal and is served in a series of courses: first an antipasto, then a primo piatto, a secondo piatto, a contorno  (a side dish), and finally a dolce and café. The antipasto is a hot or cold appetizer served in small portions. What follows is a rice, pasta, or sometimes a soup dish. The secondo piatto, or entrée, is usually fish or meat-based, and is succeeded by a salad course.  Whereas Italians concern themselves with the order in which foods are eaten and separate their food groups into different stages and portion sizes, I’m familiar with piling an indefinite number of foods onto one plate. Further, daily meals tend to last a while, for they are seen as time to spend with families and friends. I consider myself lucky if my meal lasts more than 30 minutes. My excursion to Spain was not much different: around 2pm until 5pm, people spent two-to-three hours eating lunch and taking a siesta (a nap).  It was difficult adjusting to the late dinner times and the options provided for each meal of the day.  But these eating and cooking styles were nowhere close to as shocking as those I witnessed in China.

Donating to the Homeless

I never give change to the homeless. I think that most of the time, the homeless who are begging on the street corner will use the money for things other than food. Last year during Christmas my father gave a man $100.00. In my opinion, that is enough to eat and become presentable to apply for a job. I mean really, how hard is it to say, “Welcome to McDonalds! Can I take your order?” But that man still pollutes the streets of my hometown to this day.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

"I Don't Expect This To Do Anything"

Matthew Evans continuously repeated, “I don’t expect this to do anything” as he lectured about the moral dilemma of eating meat. Congratulations Professor Evans, you have a convert.  Well, a convert to a certain extent. I’ve decided to become a pescetarian, meaning I will continue to eat seafood but cut out everything else.

After reading the Basic Argument in James Rachel’s article, it is difficult to not agree that eating meat promotes abhorrent cruelties to animals. Rachel focused on cattle and hog farms. The part that hit me the hardest was his description of the pigpens that factory hogs live in. Unable to move, they end up chewing off the tail of the pig in front of them. Once this occurs, farmers chop off the remaining part of the tail without anesthesia. This is done to animals that have the social and mental abilities equivalent to those of a dog. Can you imagine chopping off Lassie’s tail?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quality vs. Quantity

One of the first pieces of advice I received last year was: Go to Zingerman’s Deli. It wasn’t so much a suggestion as it was a resolute demand. As a naïve, disoriented freshman, I could not comprehend why anyone would want to wait on an endless line for what I assumed to be an overpriced, overrated sandwich. Needless to say, I was baffled when I visited Zingerman’s Deli for the first time: it was an unassuming, insipid building located on an obscure street outside of the University of Michigan campus. The inside, however, though congested with countless students and residents of Ann Arbor, was vibrant and welcoming. Aside from the remarkable quality of food and service at Zingerman’s, what made my experience that much better was that it made me feel like I was part of a community.
I used to deeply regret not applying to the Ross School of Business, for I thought a degree from Ross would provide me with an unlimited amount of opportunities for my future aspirations. Therefore, it was extremely comforting to hear that Ari Weinzweig, one of the founders of Zingerman’s Deli, majored in Russian History in college. What’s more, his love affair with food only began after a modest job waiting tables at a restaurant. These revelations startled me—how does one go from studying history to establishing a renowned gourmet deli? For someone who has no formal education in business, it still astounds me that Ari not only opened a successful and distinguished deli, but seven additional businesses as well.
A self-proclaimed anarchist, Ari differs entirely from the stereotypical businessman. He doesn’t preoccupy himself with sales or profit, but rather on building a respectful, creative workplace. In fact, of all twelve natural laws of business he lists, the majority focuses on creating an environment that employees would want to genuinely be a part of. Essentially, such laws indicate that the taste and quality of food alone is not enough to establish and sustain a successful, popular business. This is something that often goes overlooked in other businesses.  Considering Zingerman’s can cite Oprah Winfrey as a fan, it seems as if Ari and his business partners are doing something right.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

To eat or not to eat MEAT?

I love meat. Whether a nice hamburger, chicken breast, or even, dare I say it, a tender veal chop I cannot get enough delicious hot juicy meat in my diet. You can imagine my dismay when I found out that our guest lecturer, Professor Evans, was a vegan and would be explaining, through decently sound philosophical argument, why we perhaps should be vegetarians. According to professor Evan’s eating meat, eggs, or dairy is morally wrong because of the great amount of pain that factory farming causes to animals. I never thought that the simple task of consuming the burger I had for lunch or the chicken breast I ordered for dinner could be considered a morally incorrect action. This lecture forced me to look inside myself and ask, for the first time, if I honestly thought that continuing to eat meat on a regular basis constituted my direct “cruel” treatment of animals. I quickly decided that it was not. Whether this was a result of the realization that I simply could not live without meat or the result of rational sound moral reasoning I cannot honestly say.
Humans are the dominant species on the planet. We build roads in the middle of desserts and jungles, we throw bridges between land parted by water, and we kill animals, a class below us hierarchically, for their food. Humans have always utilized, or exploited depending on how you look at it, the resources of their land. We as a species are all about convenience, productivity, and satisfaction; three factors accounted for in the current factory farming system employed in the United States. Eating meat is the most efficient way for us to obtain our daily protein requirements. Without daily meat consumption it would be more difficult to consume the appropriate amount of daily protein and other nutrients. In terms of the argument against the cruel treatment of animals perhaps there needs to be reform in the system in which we raise our animals for food rather than a movement to stop eating a type of food which our ancestors have eaten for millions of years and many people continue to enjoy today. I’m not saying that I don’t understand the intentions of the animal rights activists but rather I am perplexed as to why they do not initiate movements for healthier and more humane raising practices. No one can ever make me feel guilty for eating an animal because we, humans, are above animals with the prerogative and free will to eat as we please and look out for our own best interests and the needs of our families. We are the superior species in all regards. We are the more intelligent and industrialized species and with global hunger running rampant and an economy in dismay we cannot give up eating meat because of the way in which that meat is treated before it even hits our local butcher shop. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eating with a Clear Conscience

Cruelty towards animals, whether in the form of neglect or with malicious intent, is considered contemptible and can result in jail time-- just ask Michael Vick. But whereas most are quick to condemn those who inflict pain and suffering onto innocent, defenseless animals, many also become indifferent towards the matter when it pertains to food and eating. Why is it that eating an animal or the product derived from it gets held to a different standard? In his lecture titled “The Ethics of Eating”, Matthew Evans, an adamant vegan and defender of animals’ rights, maintained that it is morally wrong to consume meat, dairy products, and any other organism that can experience pain in a way resembling ours. Because the idea of killing a living thing for human satisfaction seems both unwarranted and cruel to me, I wondered why I seldom feel remorse when these animals give up their lives to become my dinner... and if maybe I should.
 To be frank, nobody indulges in a quarter-pounder cheeseburger topped with crispy strips of bacon or a tender filet mignon because it's beneficial for your health.  While they do provide copious amounts of protein and vitamins, it’s the savory taste and texture of meat that accounts for the large number of carnivores. Sixteen billion animals each year in the United States, however, need to be sacrificed in order to cater to these meat-eating individuals (PETA). Acknowledging that these animals are killed in gruesome ways, without their “consent”, why would people continue to look to animals as a main source of food? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Brain Food

                 Brains are expensive. They take 20% of the total energy our bodies use (Shulman et al.). This is a HUGE portion of our total food intake. Human energy use typically ranges from 70 kilocal/hr while sleeping, to 1400 kilocal/hr while sprinting (D. Morton). Think about it, 20% of this energy goes towards our brain’s functioning. To put this concept to actual numbers, an individual who does simple housekeeping for an hour uses 150 kilocalories. This means the brain alone is using 30 kilocalories (commonly referred to simply as calories) each hour. A chocolate chip cookie, a zucchini, three cucumbers, and 3/4ths a cup of popcorn are all examples of foods with around 30 calories (Healthy Bites Under 30 Calories). The thought that a brain can use up a whole zucchini in an hour of simple everyday work is ‘mind-boggling!’

Exploring the world of food stamps

In the United States over 45 million American citizens live off food stamps. That is a troubling idea to stomach. What’s even more difficult to wrestle with is that food stamps allow for only $4.30 per day/per person. How is it possible to live off of less money per day than the typical American spends on gasoline for their car per day? This is a difficult question and I decided to find out exactly how it would feel for two days by eating only $8.60 worth of food for two consecutive days. For the purpose of this project I decided to lock all of my money and cards away so I could truly emerge myself into the situation. You have to figure that a person living on food stamps does not have a lot of disposable income to spend on other luxuries. A little nervous at the prospect of starving to death, I put the $8.60 into my completely empty wallet and began my adventure into a task that, over the course of 2 seemingly endless days, would change my perspective on everything.
Tuesday morning I woke up excited and a little anxious at the prospect of eating on such a limited budget. After getting showered and dressed I walked to the modern language building for my Spanish class, walking through the Michigan league on the way and picking up a ninety cent chewy chocolate chip granola bar from “U-gos”, a small university run café. By the time I arrived at my classroom in the basement of the building I had already scarfed down my entire breakfast without consciously recognizing that this would be the first of my three small meals of the day. By halfway through the class I began to think ahead to lunch because I was not in any way fully satisfied with my 90-calorie breakfast. After Spanish class I rushed to my political science lecture and as I started to take notes my stomach let out an intrusive growl. I could barley focus on the lecture. After 20 minutes of class I stopped taking notes for the first time in the class all semester. I couldn’t focus on any aspect of my professor’s lecture of which I usually find captivating. This wasn’t good. It was time for lunch. With only $3.40 left to spend for lunch and dinner I needed to be creative. How could you go wrong with a nice hot easy mac lunch for only 1.70? I finished my Easy Mac lunch quickly and was surprisingly satisfied with my meal. After my last class of the day I went to the library for a few hours and within 45 minutes of working it was clear to me that I was increasingly unfocused and disinterested in my assignments, two words that rarely describe my relationship to my class obligations. Something was going on, I simply could not focus having only ingested 330 calories when my body requires over 2500 calories for the day to maintain my current body weight (Calorie Counter). Frustrated and surprised at my body’s clearly diminished performance and abilities I decided to treat myself to my final meal of the day. For $1.50 I purchased a bowl of cup-of noodles soup and sat in my room savoring my final meal and reflecting on my first day on food stamps. The day felt longer than any day at school had ever felt. Even though I had less class than I usually do on a given school day I spent virtually my entire day thinking about my stomach and what I could eat for my next meal that would offer me more satisfaction. This was absolutely no way to live. How could someone be expected to be successful in society and get back on their feet if their situation constantly forces them to think about how to satisfy their hunger for the remainder of the foreseeable future?
The next morning I woke up feeling sick which quelled my hunger a little bit so I decided to grab another ninety-cent granola bar from the league café. This time I decided to switch it up and got a peanut butter flavored bar. After eating my breakfast I felt a little better and was generally satisfied. During my 2-hour discussion I began to feel really hungry again and stopped focusing on the class as I contemplated what I could eat for lunch that would give me more satisfaction. I grabbed a $1.25 slice of pizza from Back Room Pizza, perhaps the best lunch deal in Ann Arbor. After lunch I went to the library to study for my Spanish exam that is rapidly approaching. Within an hour and a half of working, my focus was shot. I was starving for dinner and I needed something filling to keep me going at the library for the rest of the day. I ventured over to Wendy’s at the union for some cheap fast food. I never eat fast food but I knew I could get the most bang for my buck at Wendys. My dinner consisted of a cheeseburger deluxe and a value fries. Both items are on the dollar menu so my daily total spent was at $4.10, just $0.30 shy of my budget. Once I got back to the library I got right back into my studying and for another hour and a half I was satisfied.  My weak stomach quickly began to bother me from the fast food and the initial feeling of a full stomach began to ware off. By the time I finished working and returned home I could barley think. I was starving, my stomach was feeling weird, and I was out of money for the day. 
This assignment was one of the most challenging tasks I have ever accomplished. I cannot imagine having to rely on food stamps on a daily basis. Even though my experiment only lasted 2 days I have gained a stronger understanding of how terrible of a situation living on food stamps is. How can we as a society expect those relying on food stamps to pull themselves out of poverty when we don’t even allow them the adequate funds to meet basic nutritional needs? If I had to quantify my decrease in productivity over the last two days I would say I was at least 35 percent less productive. How can society allow impoverished children to break the poverty cycle if they cannot get requisite nutrition on a daily basis? According to a study conducted by the Washington State Board of Health, students from families with insufficient food had significantly lower arithmetic scores and were more likely to have repeated a grade. Ignoring this issue will not solve the problem but rather perpetuate the cyclical nature of poverty and malnutrition at the expense of innocent children. I never recognized the effect that diet has on daily focus and level of concentration. Eating on such a limited food budget impedes daily productivity because you become forced, to the point of obsession, to constantly think about your next meal and if it will quell your hunger. The food stamp system in the United States is a necessary system that, if given the resources and economic support, could be greatly enhanced. However, due to limited resources and tough economic times around the country it is virtually impossible that there will be an increase in the food stamp allotment. This was a sobering experience that forced me to recognize, through direct emergence, that it is extremely difficulty for those on food stamps to become economically self-sufficient when there diet does not physically allow them to achieve the appropriate nutrients to thrive as a human being and reach a productive level of concentration and focus.

"Calorie Calculator." Calorie Counter - Free Online Diet Journal. Web. 07 Oct. 2011. <>.

"Nutrition, Physical Activity and Achievement." Washington State Board of Health. Web. 07 Oct. 2011. <>.

American Cupcake

America is an enormous frosted cupcake in the middle of millions of starving people. -Gloria Steinem.
            Steinman’s analogical cupcake is not only unattainable for millions living outside of America but also for some of its own citizens. This is the case for many Americans living off of food stamps. The Food Assistance Program (FAP) is a government initiative for American citizens with low income or no income. The program gives food stamps equivalent to $4.30 per person for an entire day of meals (DHS, “FAP Overview”).  
As a middle class American, the only dilemma I have encountered concerning food is what to order. Always having access to the foods I preferred, I had not considered myself privileged until I attempted the food stamps diet. In accordance to the Americans living on a limited food budget, I lived off of $8.60 for a total of six meals over the course of two days. I kept a journal of everything I purchased as well as any physical or emotional changes I encountered.
During my experience on the food stamp diet, I realized that lack of nutrition and food availability is not only a consequence of the money allotted. The problem is that American’s have lost the ability to stretch the worth of a dollar. Society has become so accustomed to the instant gratification of fast food, that most people do not take the initiative or time to cook, find deals at grocery stores, or even research recipes. All of which are crucial for those suffering financially. Meal preparation should include more than a car ride or hitting the start button on a microwave. I discovered that American’s standards of the amount of money and labor a meal should involve is what needs reformation, not the FAP.
            According to the Food Assistance Program, an individual or family can receive food stamps after a government application process determines that the household has less than $2,000 in resources (DHS, “FAP Overview). Benefit amounts vary depending on income, medical disabilities, and the number of people in a household (DHS, “FAP Overview). I decided to do an online screening of what a person like me, a healthy 19 year-old woman, would receive with no financial assistance. The questions ranged from my pregnancy status to the amount of money in my checking account. According to the prescreening test, I would receive around $190-$200 a month or $6.30 a day (DHS, “FNS SNAP Program Eligibility Screening Tool”). However, the government money does come with restrictions. The FAP has a list of rules that all recipients must follow or else risk the loss of their benefits. One of these rules bans the use of food stamps for fast food establishments. That eliminated the use of my dollar menu strategy.
            My first day on the food stamp diet was the most difficult. When I woke up and walked into my sorority house’s dining room, I had to ignore the Captain Crunch, freshly brewed coffee, and the blend of strawberries, blueberries and bananas lying out for breakfast. The problem with living in a sorority is that food is everywhere. My “problem” left me grudgingly walking to class on an empty stomach. On my way I decided to stop at The Village Apothecary.
1 Nature Valley Oats and Honey Granola Bar = $0.95
             I walked passed Starbucks and Espresso Royale practically drooling for a latte. The average three lattes that I buy each day costs about three times my budget. By two o’clock my lack of caffeine had made me debilitated. Studying at the library was nearly impossible with a headache and lack of focus. All I could think about was food.
Apple from Bert’s Café = $1.00
By the end of the day, I could not exercise because of my lack of energy and went to bed around eleven o’clock, early for a college student. Between two o’clock and eleven I had eaten:
Chicken flavored Ramen Noodles = $0.99
Individual Cheerios Cereal Bowl: $1.10
            After spending $4.04 on food the first day and practically starving throughout its entirety, I decided to do some research. I read the New York Times article commenting on the food stamp diet. I amended the assignment to include three of my roommates and replicated living in a multi-person household. Together we had $17.40 and went to ALDI, a grocery store known for its generic brand products and inexpensive prices. Together we purchased:
1 Box of Millville Instant Oatmeal = $1.39
1 Jar of Reggano Pasta Sauce = $1.19
3 Boxes Cheese Club Mac&Cheese = $.39 each
6 Pack of Kiwis = $0.99
2 Boxes Fit&Active 51% Whole Grain Spaghetti = $0.99 each
4 Kirkwood Chicken Breasts = $6.39
1 Gallon Skim Milk = $1.29
Our cost at checkout was $15.84, including tax. Unfortunately, we didn’t do enough research and ended up having two meals of pasta. Thankfully everyone loves carbs! All four of us had three healthy sized meals within our budget.
            Americans have lost their talent for frugal food shopping. People do not look into finding the best price on food; they just accept the cost at the most convenient store. In my opinion, this allows producers and stores to increase their prices. The spread of laziness also contributes to the health crisis facing the country. It is considered easier and more convenient to drive to fast food restaurants after a long day rather than attempt grocery shopping and preparing a home cooked meal. As Mark Bittman stated in his article, Is Junk Food Really Cheaper, “the core problem is that cooking is defined as work, and fast food is both a pleasure and a crutch”(Bittman, 2011).  Clipping coupons is another way to stretch $4.30. This once negatively judged practice has now become a recent phenomenon in America.
            The food stamp diet is a practical system that has the ability to create a healthy way of living. Even though the budget restricts where people can shop and the quality of the product they can purchase, my shopping experience at ALDI is an example of how there are possibilities within these limitations. The $4.30 will not buy caviar, but it is an extraordinary amount compared to the rapid starvation occurring in other parts of the world. Perhaps as soon as low income Americans change their attitudes towards meal preparation, everyone will get a bit of Gloria Stein’s cupcake. 

Bittman, Mark. "Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?" New York Times. 24 Sept. 2011. Web. 2            Oct. 2011. <   junkfoodreallycheaper.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1&sq=food            %20stamps&st=cse&scp=2>

"FNS SNAP Program Eligibility Screening Tool." Supplemental Nutrition Assistance          Program (SNAP) Pre-Screening Eligibility Tool. USDA. Web. 02 Oct. 2011.       <>.

State of Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS). "DHS - Food Assistance           Program (FAP) Overview." SOM - State of Michigan. Web. 05 Oct. 2011.   <,4562,7-124-5453_5527-21832--,00.html>.

State of Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS).    Information Booklet. State of Michigan Department of Human Services. Print.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You Are What You Eat

             I’m used to cabinets crammed with a variety of snacks, refrigerators filled with an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and my $4.50 venti skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks to begin my mornings. I consider my frequent trips to grocery stores and filling my cart to its brim more of an activity rather than a trip out of necessity. Moreover, I dine at certain restaurants not for their inexpensive prices, but for the quality of food they serve. Forty-five million other Americans, however, do not have the luxury of enjoying food the way I do (SNAP monthly data, 2011). Those who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for food aid and assistance equate food with survival and are grateful for what they’re able to obtain with such little money. After participating in the short-term Food Stamp Diet challenge, I realized that living on the edge of subsistence remarkably shapes the relationship and experience that one has with food.
             I’ve been told countless times that “you are what you eat”, meaning how you appear physically is a reflection of the type of diet you have. Acknowledging that leaner cuts of meat, fresh and organic fruits and vegetables, and lower calorie foods tend to be more expensive than their “generic” counterparts, I wondered if lifelong users of food stamps could avoid becoming overweight and unhealthy.