Better School Lunches Should Taste Better Too


Seems to me that if we want school kids to eat lettuce, broccoli, carrots, peas, green beans, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, whole wheat bread, fruit cocktail etc. etc., we have an obligation to make these foods taste as good as fast food hamburgers and French fries. MacDonald ‘s spent millions of dollars developing its French fry and now we want the kids to eat instead untried sliced, browned potatoes that I’m sorry to say, are not nearly as tasty. Ask any school kid.

Have you eaten a school lunch lately? I don’t want to criticize the cooks at all because they work hard and do the best they can, given the circumstances. About all they have to work with are mass-produced, canned products or “fresh” products from distant places. Commercially canned peas, green beans, or sweet corn taste awful to me and the fresh lettuce out of supermarkets is not very desirable either. Mechanical vegetable harvesters can’t handle peas and corn at their tenderest, most tasty stage and factory-processed food of whatever kind just isn’t as good as home-cooked. Just because bread is brown doesn’t mean it tastes good. Mass production equals mediocre taste and most school lunches are by definition mass-produced. When I ate school lunches with my grandsons on Grandparents’ Days, I noticed that most of the vegetables went right off the plates into the garbage buckets.

It’s good to see some new programs developing like the “National Farm To School” project and other efforts to link up local fresh fruits and vegetables with school lunch programs. An article in the Farm and Dairy magazine of October 11vreports that local food is being served in various counties in West Virginia (and I presume other states) and some cafeterias are actually cooking from scratch instead of heating up from cans. In one project, students planted and picked the beans that were fed to them in the cafeteria for two days. I have doubts that such dedication and pilot programs will continue, because school time occurs mostly when fresh garden produce isn’t available. But West Virginia’s Ag Department has thought of that too, and in some instances high tunnel greenhouses have become part of the effort to deliver local fresh food to schools through the winter.

Accompanying these programs there should be more experienced efforts employed in selecting good tasting vegetables and fruits. Everyone has his or her own taste, but I’m sure that those of us with long gardening experience will agree that most commercial sweet corn is harvested too late or served too stale. Peas are often picked too late, even from gardens where machines aren’t involved. Commercial peaches and tomatoes are picked too green. People complain to me that store-bought potatoes increasingly have an off taste now. I don’t know why, perhaps from being stored too long. Select varieties (Red Norland is my favorite but there are others) direct from the garden or even after four month storage, are so good. Likewise the taste of apples varies widely. I’ll bet a MacDonald hamburger that if children had access to the new Honey Crisp apple, they’d prefer it to candy.

Last Week of the Vegetable CSA 2012…


Mendocino Organics Vegetable CSA

Our Vegetable CSA shareholders enjoy a weekly newsletter sent via email. Here’s a peak at how we ended our veggie CSA season. Be sure to read our “Last Notes” – a farewell until next growing season!

In Your Share this Week – Ukiah

  • Butternut Squash
  • Pie Pumpkin
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Spinach
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Baby Turnips
  • Broccoli
  • French Shallots

Wine grapes are getting picked. Olives are ready for harvest. Reggae music is drifting through the neighborhood. Fall harvest is an active, energizing time of the year in Mendocino County, and the weather could not be more beautiful. Just in time for this last distribution, we have spinach, broccoli, and some baby roots. The turnip greens are good in soup, like miso soup. If you haven’t tried shallots before, they are a sweet allium great for any cooking.

Butternut is probably the most popular winter squash. They will last for a few weeks in a cool, dry place. You can slice it thinly, coat in olive oil, and bake for a delicious side dish. The other night, we couldn’t finish a butternut squash we baked, so the next day, we cut the remaining half into strips and cooked it in oil, almost like French fries. They were so good!

If you’re looking for a spiced up soup this fall, here is a good one from Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine (November 2012):

Butternut Squash Soup with Red Chile & Mint

Serves 4

Prep 10 min.

Cook 1 hr.

  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 lb.)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp. crumbled dried mint
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches)
  • 2-3 tsp. ground red chile or ancho chile, plus more for garnish
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
  • Sliced fresh mint leaves, for garnish
  • t bsp. heavy cream, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve and seed the squash. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake until soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and measure out 2 cups.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, 1 tbsp. basil and the dried mint. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, cinnamon stick, ground chile and 1 tsp. coarse salt. Stir in the stock or water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. Break up any large squash pieces with a spoon, or pulse in a blender or with an immersion blender to smooth.

Monopoly Is Theft…


The antimonopolist history of the world’s most popular board game

[…] The game’s true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow’s patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to “own” land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an “erroneous and destructive principle” and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as “the general landlord.”

Magie called her invention The Landlord’s Game, and when it was released in 1906 it looked remarkably similar to what we know today as Monopoly. It featured a continuous track along each side of a square board; the track was divided into blocks, each marked with the name of a property, its purchase price, and its rental value. The game was played with dice and scrip cash, and players moved pawns around the track. It had railroads and public utilities—the Soakum Lighting System, the Slambang Trolley—and a “luxury tax” of $75. It also had Chance cards with quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson (“The earth belongs in usufruct to the living”), John Ruskin (“It begins to be asked on many sides how the possessors of the land became possessed of it”), and Andrew Carnegie (“The greatest astonishment of my life was the discovery that the man who does the work is not the man who gets rich”). The game’s most expensive properties to buy, and those most remunerative to own, were New York City’s Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Wall Street. In place of Monopoly’s “Go!” was a box marked “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.” The Landlord Game’s chief entertainment was the same as in Monopoly: competitors were to be saddled with debt and ultimately reduced to financial ruin, and only one person, the supermonopolist, would stand tall in the end. The players could, however, vote to do something not officially allowed in Monopoly: cooperate. Under this alternative rule set, they would pay land rent not to a property’s title holder but into a common pot—the rent effectively socialized so that, as Magie later wrote, “Prosperity is achieved.”

For close to thirty years after Magie fashioned her first board on an old piece of pressed wood, The Landlord’s Game was played in various forms and under different names—“Monopoly,” “Finance,” “Auction.” It was especially popular among Quaker communities in Atlantic City and Philadelphia, as well as among economics professors and university students who’d taken an interest in socialism… Complete story here

Transition Town Fujino goes for local energy independence…


Fujino Town in Sagamihara City in Japan’s northwestern Kanagawa Prefecture is a peaceful place with a population of about 10,000 people. Located in a valley and surrounded by abundant nature with mountains and lakes, though it is only one hour away from central Tokyo, it is known as an artists’ haven, promoting and displaying art works around town.

Fujino (officially renamed Midori Ward in 2010) is also home to a Transition Town initiative. As we have explained before on Our World 2.0, the Transition Town Movement is an international network of grassroots groups that form to apply the theory of permaculture to community revitalization. The concept of permaculture, which originated in Australia, is a practical approach to designing a lifestyle that will create sustainable human environments. The word “permaculture” comes from the combination of “permanent” and “agriculture”, later expanded to signify “culture”.

Working to build resilience in the face of climate change and peak oil, the Transition approach can be particularly instructive in demonstrating how to accomplish this shift using bottom-up rather than top-down methods (the top-down approach has been characteristic of most Japanese eco-towns). The Transition Movement promotes action at the local level and encourages communities to draw on their own creativity, building on existing regional resources.

The world’s first Transition Town was initiated in the fall of 2005 by permaculture teacher Rob Hopkins in Totnes, a small town in England. Supporters promoted the movement across England and all over the world. Currently, there are around 450 official Transition Initiatives and another almost 600 communities preparing to become official, according to the Transition Network.

Going local in Fujino

Fujino is one of three fully functioning Transition Movement initiatives in Japan, although over twenty are in the works. Established in the fall of 2008, Transition Fujino (which we’ve featured on Our World a few times in the past) started up by sharing information on the core issues through events like briefings and film presentations.

Then a local currency, the Yorozuya (meaning “general store” in Japanese), was launched and began playing a major role in stimulating local networking. The Yorozuya project started with 15 members in 2009 and has now grown to include 150 households. Those participating can exchange goods and eat at restaurants using the currency. The network also thrives by targeting local needs, such as providing pet care, weeding vegetable gardens, and picking up children. It further serves to connect those in need with those who can give a hand. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the network displayed a great ability to support disaster-affected areas by collecting cash donations, gathering and sorting emergency relief supplies

Barbara Kingsolver Takes On Climate Change…

Press Democrat

Barbara Kingsolver, Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, presented by Copperfield’s Books, 7 p.m., Thursday Nov. 15, 546-3600 or,

Barbara Kingsolver, whose novels’ deep evocation of place has made her a national treasure, almost tossed her first book into the trash.

“I had no way of knowing that it could matter to anyone else. I didn’t dream I could be a writer,” she said in a phone interview this month, in advance of a 10-city tour that brings her to Santa Rosa and Corte Madera on Nov. 15.

Instead of discarding her manuscript of “The Bean Trees,” Kingsolver drove to a mailbox in an Arizona mall and sent it to a publisher.

“I was nine and a half months pregnant. I got out of the car and wobbled over and said, ‘Here you go, goodbye.’ It felt kind of like throwing it in the trash can,” she said. “I was pretty sure the results would be exactly the same.”

Kingsolver’s latest novel, “Flight Behavior”, is due out November 6

Fortunately for Kingsolver and the legions of people who became her fans, “The Bean Trees” was published in 1988 and became a critical and commercial success.

“The Poisonwood Bible,” her 1998 book about a missionary family that goes deep into the Congo, was selected by Oprah’s Book Club and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Raised in rural Kentucky, Kingsolver, 57, studied biology at Indiana’s DePauw University. In 1978 she moved to Tucson, earned a graduate science degree and worked as a science writer at the University of Arizona.

In the 1990s, Kingsolver met and married biology professor Steven Hopp at a college in southwestern Virginia; in 2004, Kingsolver moved there, and two years later the couple had a daughter, Lily.

Her new novel, “Flight Behavior,” takes on the topic of global warming and is set in Appalachia, where Kingsolver grew up and where she again lives. It will be published Nov. 6.

Following are highlights of a phone conversation with Kingsolver:

Q. Can you tell me about the title of your new book?
A. What I love about a good title is that it can function as a key that unlocks every important door in the book. Until I have that title, I’m not happy.

Our Words Are Our Weapons — Against the Destruction of the World by Greed…


In ancient China, the arrival of a new dynasty was accompanied by “the rectification of names,” a ceremony in which the sloppiness and erosion of meaning that had taken place under the previous dynasty were cleared up and language and its subjects correlated again. It was like a debt jubilee, only for meaning rather than money.

This was part of what made Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign so electrifying: he seemed like a man who spoke our language and called many if not all things by their true names. Whatever caused that season of clarity, once elected, Obama promptly sank into the stale, muffled, parallel-universe language wielded by most politicians, and has remained there ever since. Meanwhile, the far right has gotten as far as it has by mislabeling just about everything in our world — a phenomenon which went supernova in this year of “legitimate rape,” “the apology tour,” and “job creators.”  Meanwhile, their fantasy version of economics keeps getting more fantastic. (Maybe there should be a rectification of numbers, too.)

Let’s rectify some names ourselves. We often speak as though the source of so many of our problems is complex and even mysterious. I’m not sure it is. You can blame it all on greed: the refusal to do anything about climate change, the attempts by the .01% to destroy our democracy, the constant robbing of the poor, the resultant starving children, the war against most of what is beautiful on this Earth.

Calling lies “lies” and theft “theft” and violence “violence,” loudly, clearly, and consistently, until truth becomes more than a bump in the road, is a powerful aspect of political activism. Much of the work around human rights begins with accurately and aggressively reframing the status quo as an outrage, whether it’s misogyny or racism or poisoning the environment. What protects an outrage are disguises, circumlocutions, and euphemisms — “enhanced interrogation techniques” for torture, “collateral damage” for killing civilians, “the war on terror” for the war against you and me and our Bill of Rights.

Change the language and you’ve begun to change the reality or at least to open the status quo to question. Here is Confucius on the rectification of names:

“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”

Transition: Rethink the idea of “Jobs”…


Becoming a jack of all trades and a master of one…

“Jobs” as we know them today — paychecks from large corporate employers — are a very recent phenomenon in human history. Within our new understanding of the future economy, this form of earning a living is not too likely to continue.

Even the idea of “green jobs” is deeply flawed. Many of the “green” jobs are completely dependent upon government funding. Some supposedly “green” jobs are in tech-centric industries, dependent upon oil, overseas manufacturing, and continued supply of trace elements, all of which will be difficult to sustain as we move deeper into the post-peak-everything era. Most “green” industries are built upon the presumption of economic growth, and depend on continued societal affluence to get the fledgling “green” industries off the ground. And many so-called “green” industries merely provide green-cast consumption, perpetuating the five-planets-worth-of-consumption which we have told each other is “normal.”

The role of “employee” of a giant facility controlled by corporate executives is part of the fading past. If we are to achieve The Great Redistribution, there will be a redistribution of ownership. As we Relocalize and powerdown, making a living is much more likely to be in the role of “proprietor,” rather than employee.

Income sources in the future are less likely to look like paychecks and far more likely to look like local businesses, home businesses, or barter businesses. These small businesses are likely to be providing some of the basic, core services that local community members need, such as food, water, basic shelter, basic clothing, low-input forms of health care, and human services such as psychological and spiritual help in coping with this vastly altered course of events. (more on this at Practical Tool #4) All those Reskilling classes we create within the Transition movement begin to look very different!

Remember that in the not-so-distant past, people thought not in terms of “jobs” but in terms of “trades.” A young boy was sent out to apprentice and learn a craft or a trade. Yes, some people did have jobs, but they were nothing like the massive oil-supported corporate structure we see today. People farmed food, people crafted everyday necessary tools, people made clothing, people nursed each other, all done locally. In a post-petroleum world, the globalized corporate structure is doomed. We will be left with a lot more community-level sufficiency. In our March 2009 economics session in Los Angeles, when we asked the audience the types of businesses we would need for greater resilience here in L.A., the list was extensive and inspiring.

Thus more likely possibilities for future livelihoods include small businesses in resilience-building industries, or working for a local businessman within a resilience-building industry. This becomes important not only for “how will I pay the rent” but also when we consider the messages we give our children

Todd Walton: Zero Population Growth

Under The Table

“The chief cause for the impending collapse of the world—the cause sufficient in and by itself—is the enormous growth of the human population: the human flood. The worst enemy of life is too much life: the excess of human life.” Pentti Linkola

Decades ago I joined an organization called Zero Population Growth, a group founded by Paul Ehrlich dedicated to educating people and elected officials about the dire need to take political and educational action to combat overpopulation in America and around the world. I liked the name of the organization because it said clearly what we wanted to do: intentionally reduce the human birth rate so human population would begin to decline and the earth might be saved. However, some years ago during a time when Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House, funding grew scarce for organizations espousing such radical ideas as limiting population growth, and in order to survive, Zero Population Growth changed its name to Population Connection.

Did the name change help? Apparently so, because the organization lives on and continues to do valuable work. The Reporter, the magazine of Population Connection, dedicates one issue per year to an extensive Congressional Report Card wherein the battle lines are clearly drawn and readers are shown a Congress very much under the sway of ignorant morons who routinely vote against any legislation to fund or enhance family planning or birth control both here and abroad. Ignorant morons doesn’t quite do these particular hominids justice. Evil malicious poopheads would be more accurate; and it is both fascinating and sad to see that the vast majority of these EMP’s are from the South and Midwest; which is not to say that the South and Midwest are hotbeds of ignorance and misogyny and the rest of the country is enlightened, but to suggest that the South and Midwest are hotbeds of ignorance and misogyny.

Say what I will about there being little difference

ZPG: We Still Exist. Here’s What We’re About…

Population Connection 

Last Friday, reporter Emily Bazelon wrote a post about a confusing quote made by Ruth Bader Ginsburg three years ago. Bazelon might have cleared up what Bader Ginsburg said, but it certainly didn’t do anything to clear up Population Connection’s position on population growth, women’s rights and social justice! President John Seager straightens things out here:

It was nice to see Slate clear up some misunderstandings about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s views on abortion and feminism (Talking to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oct. 19). Unfortunately, the explanation might have engendered some new misunderstandings – about our organization.

First of all, Zero Population Growth didn’t disappear with the VW buses and Birkenstocks. We still exist – both as a nonprofit organization and a movement. We’re now called Population Connection, and the movement is centered on expanding human rights – making sure every person who wants it has access to voluntary family planning, fighting for social justice and protecting the planet we all depend upon. We are a pro-choice organization not out of some drive to reduce “certain populations,” but because we support women’s rights. Period.

However, two things have changed since the heyday of interest in population growth. Number one: The world’s population has nearly doubled. Number two: Nobody wants to talk about it. Any suggestion that the planet has limits tends to brand one as some sort of eugenicist, as Jonah Goldberg so ably demonstrated.

Currently, our Earth’s population stands at more than 7 billion. Count noses in 1974, and there were 4 billion of us. The United Nations projects that by 2050, we could have anywhere from 8.1 billion (if contraception access is expanded) to 10.6 billion.

Perhaps that eye-popping number wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for several inconvenient truths. One is that growth in agriculture yields is not keeping pace with population growth – meaning a lot more hungry people in the future. Another is that clean water