Cream Biscuits

Cream Biscuit

I got tired of the overly sticky and unworkable biscuit scratch recipes. These two flours work well together, although regular whole wheat flour will suffice. This recipe takes away a third of the usual amount of cream and adds cold butter for a more substantial dough.

  • 1 cup (142g) – “OO” flour
  • 1 cup (142g) – Whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp – baking soda
  • 2 tsp – sugar
  • ½ tsp – salt
  • 2 TBL – cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup – heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized)

Preheat oven to 425oF

Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper

In food processor, process all the dry ingredients to mix. Cut butter in pieces and process in dry mixture, two or three pulses. Turn on machine and pour cream through spout. Process until dough forms.

Toss dough onto clean surface dusted with flour. Work dough, adding sprinklings of flour until no longer sticky. Either wrap in plastic and let sit in refrigerator until needed, or proceed to cutting biscuit shape.

Roll dough flat until ¾ to 1 inch thick. Use biscuit cutter to make round shape. Place on baking sheet.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until golden brown appears on top. Serve immediately.

Notes

Finnicky Dough begins quite sticky coming out of food processor. Dust your hands with flour unless you like bits of dough between your fingers.

Place tray in middle of oven. If placed on bottom rack, the biscuit will burn on the bottom before browning on top.

Using ultra-pasteurized cream will produce flattened, uneven biscuits with undercooked dough in the middle. Autoimmune diets can only use pasteurized cream.

ABC: Asphalt, Bureaucracy, & Climate

When Vice News interviewed the mayor of an Oregon town that lost a third of its housing to last year’s wildfires, the mayor offered the following sentiment. She was asked if encouraging people to return was a good idea with the ongoing threat of another wildfire. Her response was that climate change is everywhere and this is where they were choosing to make a stand.

While her statement is a typical politician’s response, “We can do this!”, her program is a failure. Her determination on behalf of her constituents is admirable, her plan is poorly positioned as is the limited municipal money she has allocated. They are building Recreational Vehicle (RV) hookups to draw back displaced residents who cannot afford to rebuild to return to town. The RV hookups plan is appropriate if the goal is bringing back the tax base; however, the response is valueless if it is meant to be a stand against climate change.

Approving expenditures to help people return sounds worthwhile and a proper function of government at first glance. However, in a time of escalating climate change, the proper first priority of government is not accommodating people. The priority must be creating a survivable environment, a concept that only specialized segments of government bureaucracies who use emergency management centers typically encounter. The goal after such disasters is creating resilience now that the danger is known. A climate-stricken world requires an entire revamping of the role of government, which is a shift from the usual way of doing government business. The new reality is climate change is an ongoing, escalating crisis.

The climate change crisis in Oregon may be wildfires while the coastal flooding is the ongoing destruction in Miami, Florida. California and the rest of the southwestern United States are suffering prolonged droughts. Parts of Germany and Belgium are inundated with swollen rivers while the Indian subcontinent faces the extremes of misplaced monsoons. The eastern seaboard of North America is experiencing more frequent and more powerful hurricanes.

Certain religious traditions have more to say about long ongoing crises than others. Diaspora religions living among other majorities have long understood that there is no instant or elegant solution to resolving a long enduring crisis. Success is not characterized as overcoming or winning, instead success is defined as creating a dynamic balance that adjusts as the surges of tension and confrontation roil.

Most holy scriptures are a chronicle of the crises in the lives of human beings and their nations.[i] The religious voice offers powerful methodologies for navigating the effects of climate change and countering the greedy interests that want us to ignore climate change. Contrary to the sneering condescension of critics, the proffered methods are not “let us pray on it.” Seeking common ground, aligning communal interests, raising and promoting volunteers, redirecting self-interest back to community interest, and confirming universal ideals that can inspire all are some of the religious lessons that people of faith still use today. Multi-religious initiatives for the community’s good inspire and work.

 Religions work in a specific manner in the public sphere. They offer established principles that set priorities of action and promulgate rules that define boundaries of acceptable actions. Saving lives is always the highest priority because life is sacred. Preventing the circumstances that threaten life is the next priority because it leads to the highest priority. In contrast, politicians talk about saving money and saving jobs as the highest priorities. The religious models accept those political talking points, but place them within the context of saving lives, putting jobs and money in a healthier and more achievable context.

When my new county executive was elected, I met him at a gala fundraising for another organization. After congratulations and introductions, he asked what was on my mind.

“Asphalt,” I said.

“Come again?”

I continued. “You inherited a budget from your predecessor with a funding structure of replacing roads after twenty years of use. The extremes of climate change in our county have probably reduced the lifespan of our roads by five years, give or take. Did you know this was happening?”

“Let me look into that,” he said.

The upshot of that conversation was an aggressive tarring campaign, where a crew walks every road with a hot tar machine in tow, filling in every crack in the asphalt with tar. The process gives the road another two to three years of life. The tarring program had disappeared in the rush to cut government spending in previous administrations. The tar is inexpensive, but the crew time is costly – not as costly as putting in new roads though. The county executive’s response is an example of the dynamic flexibility required to address the facts of climate change. The politician’s priority of money and jobs was preserved and my priority of preventing destructive circumstances was achieved.

(A quick aside, the asphalt example can be correctly categorized as an example of adaptation. Adapting to climate change is a necessary step that many in the environmental advocacy arena dismiss as a distraction from the goal of clean renewable energy legislation or worse, a surrender to the failure of ridding the world of carbon producing fossil fuels. The events of the past few years have clarified that adaptation will be a necessary component of any climate change legislation, an unfortunate but predictable development. Most politicians are amenable to adaptation spending in their districts.)

While my county executive is an elected position, he used the bureaucracy to address the effects of climate change. The public rhetoric to address carbon pollution often overlooks the power of the bureaucracy. Bureaucracies are slow, rigid, and cranky; they are depicted as prone to corruption with political appointments and highjacked bids. The crimes reach the news cycles, but the day-to-day work, plodding up and down the streets for instance, are beneath notice. Bureaucracies do work and they can be quite powerful.

The dynamic power of a federal bureaucracy can have global reach, addressing not just the effects but the sources of carbon pollution. Reuters reported on August 16th, 2021, that the “U.S. Treasury to oppose development bank financing for most fossil fuel projects.” Fossil Fuel companies can longer use the multilateral development banks across the world to fund their projects. The only exceptions are countries buying coal plants to shut them down and poor countries with no infrastructure purchasing some natural gas-powered generation downstream. Using the bureaucracy, the U.S. government has shut down an the “at the source” funding stream for the fossil fuel industry. The U.S. Treasury is using its leverage in a new manner to shut down new fossil fuel development across the globe. While the U.S. Treasury has offered “guidance” throughout its history, this is a climate first and a welcome one.

Addressing climate change is not about a stand against the effects of climate change. All the industries that oppose addressing climate change are happy with this misguided stance and encourage it. The more effort that is expended on the destruction and costs produced by climate change, the less effort is available to attack the sources of climate change. The mayor in Oregon is truly looking out for her citizens and the town, for which she deserves our compliments and encouragement. People who use their political power to raise the downtrodden and stricken deserve the support of religious affirmation. However, when the means of support are misdirected, more productive actions need to be introduced and corrected if possible.

As we examine the laws, regulations, and allocations in our local communities, we must keep the following mantra in mind: We cannot fight climate change; we can only fight the sources of climate change.


[i] Following Judah Magnes PhD, Gleanings 1948

Baking Powder

  • 2 parts – Cream of Tartar
  • 1 part – baking soda
  • 1tsp – corn starch or potato starch

Example:

  • ½ cup – Cream of Tartar
  • ¼ cup – baking soda
  • 1tsp – potato starch

Notes

  • Cream of Tartar loses potency after one year.
  • People on autoimmune diets should use potato starch instead of corn.
  • Store in mason jar to retain freshness.

The Phony Cry of Doomerism

The reports from the field observations on climate are returning with ever worsening reports, as predicted. Heat absorption, the Arctic and Antarctica, mounting land degradation tallies are ticking upward, which again, were explicated in the climate models. Last week, Greenpeace released a report on an Exxon lobbyist who was tricked in admitting fierce lobbying behind the scenes and the corruption of key senators to prevent climate change legislation in the U.S. Senate, as per the Tobacco playbook of fifty years ago. The interview also shows the campaign to prevent climate change legislation is shifting into another, well-documented gear: “Give up,” certain no-name writers press. “Give up and go home; enjoy these better days while you have them.

The new task at hand is not defending the veracity of the data. The evidence proving climate change has swayed approximately 70 percent of the American population according to the latest surveys. Climate Denialism continues to lose adherents as the effects of global warming are experienced by more people with no alternate explanations possible. Scientists and activists are winning the first battle of denialism, but the fossil fuel industry has already moved on.

More than one set of delaying tactics are described in the earlier Tobacco Industry playbook, which goes back fifty years. Thwarting legislation is a multi-pronged approach requiring several different strategies, and different types of timing. As denialism tapers off, the fossil fuel industry is pivoting to two other methodologies: denigration and delay. As the Tobacco Industry demonstrated, these tactics work, delaying anti-tobacco legislation and litigation for fifty years.

On the denial track, we have passed through most of the “denial that the problem exists,” although there is still funding flowing to professional deniers such as the Heartland Institute. Thirty percent of Americans still believe that climate change does not exist, that it is a hoax, or that its existence and effects are overblown. These public relations campaigns have been unusually effective.

One of the most effective components happening now is the half-step campaign. The half-step is the acknowledgement by the industry that climate change exists. Such pronouncements are hailed as great milestones and proof the fossil fuel industry is finally paying attention to the threat of climate change. In truth, they have been paying close attention since the late 1970’s according to their own internal studies and documents. With this half-step announcement, the industry pivots to a stance of non-engagement. In the same breath that they confirm climate change is real, they deny that climate change is a problem. No one needs to act because climate change is benign.

Continuing further down the denial track, the fossil fuel industry pushes two specific ideas. The first project is to deny that the fossil fuel industry is the cause. They point fingers at cows, governments, corporate agriculture and most effectively, at ordinary people. There are kernels of truth in their accusations, but not even close to a whole, accurate truth. Just enough truth to make the accusations appear tenable is part of the strategy.

Their claim is if everyone would take personal responsibility for their contributions to climate change, the crisis would be solved. The argument is demonstrably false, but it accomplishes its true goal of shifting the conversation away from fossil fuels. Other permutations include “we’re trying, why aren’t you” or “we’re doing our part, everyone else is the problem.” Most insidious of all is the claim “not to worry, a technological is fix is coming to save us.” There is no technology in a production pipeline to address climate change now.

The second idea, which has not emerged fully into blossom yet, is to deny that we can solve climate change. The climate is complicated involving ocean currents under the ocean to carbon accretion in the upper layers of the atmosphere, and no one can really understand all of it. Even the climate scientists do not have all the answers, they claim. The fossil fuel industry will humbly profess the problems are too complicated to solve at this time, but they promise to continue studying the issue.

Delaying action on climate change is the arena in which doomerism is actively pushed. Two types of delay are in play, but both are concerned with politics. The most expensive element in the industry’s push to stop legislation is lobbying. They make donations to politicians and political campaigns. If they identify a vulnerable legislator, they fund campaigns to raise a primary challenger or fund the candidate who supports their industry in the full election. They have lobbyists in every state, working with municipal, county, and state legislators and with the regulatory agencies. They fund think tanks and institutes whose sole purpose is to stop climate change legislation from being passed. They have been successful.

However, constituents vote, and they lobby too. The power of the electorate is formidable when it is engaged and their aggregated votes and demands of legislators are effective; they are a deep challenge to the fossil fuel industry despite their billions of spent dollars. To delay the electorate, they hire firms to prevent aggregating into large coalitions. These firms target individuals who are aggregators of public concern including scientists, teachers, clergy, pundits, environmental groups, and informed politicians. They also attempt to discourage people from taking up the cause using media, social media, print campaigns, and any other method they think may work. They have money to spend.

The promotion of doomerism, the fear that it is too late to save the planet and that all is lost, is a pernicious delaying tactic. The voice of doom sends the message that nothing can be done. The concerned citizen who learns this terrible truth should go home and close their doors. They should use their energy to live the best life they can while they can because all is lost. They should give up the fight because the battle is already lost; we are too late.

“I came to view with despair all the gains I had made under the sun,” Kohelet records in the Book of Ecclesiastes, falling into a funk of futility despite his recounted successes. Doomerism is the latest expression of well-attested despair. Despair is crippling, leading to withdrawal from the world and from everything that gives life meaning and worth; it is an affliction.

As a tool to discourage people from taking community and political action, despair is potent. From young adults through every decade through the elder years, despondency is a cruel and crippling reality to the vulnerable. “No sickness like despair” declared Israel Salanter Lipkin centuries ago.

To the power hungry and cynical, promoting despair in the opposition or in the population is a documented path to success. Take the fight out of one’s enemies and they will not bother to raise their arms in defense, much less raise a counterattack. Peeling off parts of the population who would care about climate change and neutralizing them is an appealing strategy. The promotion of doomerism lately demonstrates the effort is well underway.

Across the globe in almost every generation, people have risen to overcome their despair and move forward. Despair is an ancient problem, which is found in the writings of every religious tradition. St. Francis of Assisi encouraged his fellows, declaring that hope is the antidote to despair. The ancient Jewish traditions argue that despair is the loss of hope. The Buddhist teachings direct the practitioner to lean into the despair, using the pain as a lever to raise others out of their despair.

Despair is real and its presence is a necessary component of our response to climate change. Hopelessness reminds us of all that is precious to us, from our fellow human beings to the planet that sustains us all. The suffering of human beings from global warming is cataloged as an evil in the Western religious traditions and as avoidable suffering in the Eastern traditions. Both traditions are on point, signaling why despair over the climate is painful and even crippling at times.

The toxic nature of despair is not a foregone conclusion. The presence of despair is a moment of self-revelation, an insight that all is not right. Anguish is an opportunity to examine the causes of our pain and to challenge our lack of hope. The propaganda surrounding the push of climate doomerism is an attempt to extinguish the presence of hope. Hope is the target to be eliminated as the industry pushes against change.

Despondency need not be a stumbling block. The power of this human sentiment is available to all people, and the power can be a great source of motivation. Without this element of threatened hopelessness, the fights for climate change legislation would be an academic one or the work of a professional gunslinger who earns a paycheck lobbying politicians. Despair is an engine that galvanizes the religious soul, that bothers the people on the sidelines who await a goad to act. Despair is the call to action. The presence of despair informs us that this battle to save the planet is the movement of peoples against the lust for wealth and power. As climate change is global, the gathering to force change on the fossil fuel industry is worldwide, and all of this gathering, each and every individual joining the cause, begins with despair. As one organizer declares in her email signature, “From pain, to protest, to power.” Despair is not a conclusion, but a beginning point. From anguish and hopelessness, the only path is upward.

Grammar

My grammar, ‘tis of thee,

Sweet incongruity,

Of thee I sing.

I love each mood and tense,

Each freak of accidence,

Protect me from common sense,

Grammar, my king!

“The Wonder of Words” by Isaac Goldberg, 1938.

Climate Action for the Apathetic

In any nationwide initiative to move the American population to change course, the two key demographics are the apathetic and the complacent. Unfortunately for most of our polling experts, these demographic groups nest comfortably within all age cohorts, zip codes, races, and economic profiles. Two representative projects seeking to push the general populace to address climate change are taking the challenge to rouse these lethargic individuals to pay attention. The question is whether these well developed, well presented efforts work as intended.

While The En-Roads Initiative presents an accessible presentation of what we need to do to address climate change, the academic presentation defines the audience who will interact eagerly with the webpage. The player can toy with all the sliders and watch the graph rise or fall as the player attempts to drop the rise in temperature to 1.5 oC. Those who enjoy science and who enjoy learning will embrace the site wholeheartedly. Developed and sponsored in part by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the academic approach is on clear display.

Back in 2019, CNN took a different approach to much of the same scientific evidence, offering an interactive quiz. The designers of the quiz offered a short piece of seven questions with four choices for all but one section (it had three). Each choice was ranked as a comparison to “how many millions of cars would be removed from the road.” After attempting to place the four choices of any question in the proper order, the quiz offered instant answers, rewards (you did better than 50% of others), and snippets of information. This worthwhile exercise led the quiz-taker to set priorities of what must be done first. According to the science, the top five choices most affecting the release of carbon in descending order are:

  1. Getting rid of chemicals in refrigerators and AC’s
  2. Wind generation installation
  3. Throwing away less food in every setting
  4. Eating a plant-heavy diet
  5. Restoring tropical rain forests

The CCN quiz ends at this point. The quiz/interactive article is short, working within the typical length of an online news media presentation of articles. Conforming to CNN publishing conventions, the articles convey the evidence-based information in a topical manner, allowing the reader to examine the presented evidence and make conclusions.

The data behind the quiz leads to a diversity of actions-to-take within the top priorities. Getting rid of chemicals is a regulatory process; wind generation is national legislation together with the free market economy; and changing diet while also changing how we treat food is individual action and free market economy. The top five solutions create a convincing conclusion of the necessity of a variety of approaches to solving the climate crisis.

Variety and diversity are anathema to addressing apathy and complacency though.

Both interactions with the climate science data are designed to convince and engage people who are asking one question: “Climate change is real, so, what do we have to do?” The presented solutions signal several angles of attack to address the crisis. Not stated, but certainly one concrete conclusion is no one elegant solution to climate change is possible. Several solution sets are necessary and within each set, a variable number of different tasks and protocols are required for success.

The disconnect between the reality of solution sets and the human desire for simple directions is daunting. When the apathetic are roused enough to ask, the request is typically circumscribed by the demand to “just give me the back of the envelope version of what I’ve got to do.” Such a thing does not exist. Even the plea for a one-page executive summary is probably not possible. Yet, the request is an opening for meaningful change to occur.

The Pew Research reports an aggregate of 62% of Americans believe in climate change, broken down at 90% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans in 2019. About 70 percent of the surveyed believe the United States should prioritize developing clean renewable energy. The numbers indicate a large popular movement willing to accept climate science. None of these recorded shifts in attitude give direction on how address the large groups of complacent or apathetic people captured within the findings though.

All the solution sets require these groups not only to accept but to participate. People need to participate in all the solution sets and in all the facets of each solution set. One set of solutions may examine personal actions such as beef consumption or electricity providers, but other sets are demanding from politicians legislative and regulatory action at the local, state, and national levels. Such behavior is contrary to the attitudes these people and their households are presenting, which is a request for a simple set of directions. Not only a simple set of directions, these groups want easy-to-follow directions.

To date, the challenge these two demographics present has not been met. For example, New York State mandates that its utilities must provide a community solar option for all its customers, which is an excellent development. On the Con Edison site, which serves New York City, the customer must log into their account online account first, then navigate three pages, clicking the correct buttons to land on the Choices page. On this specific page, the customer must navigate through pages on ratings, tips for selecting, and choosing. Only after these pages can the customer click the “find offers” button, only to be confronted with more choices before providers are posted. The customer then must navigate the page to find the correct filters for renewable energy providers (they are at the bottom of the webpage). Choosing a community solar provider is a complicated process complete with dead end tangents, misplaced buttons, and pages upon pages of text to navigate. Even the most dedicated are challenged.

These two demographics, the apathetic and the complacent, demonstrate the grassroots challenges that continue to thwart efforts to address climate change. Climate change is not simple to explain, to understand, or to address. Swaths of population are demanding that organizers, scientists, engineers, and lobbyists keep it simple. Their lack of actions indicate they will not rise reduce their carbon footprint until the process is simplified. The requests are not reasonable nor fair, but they must be addressed.

Advocates Beware

Herein lies a cautionary tale of politics and climate change.

The fossil fuel industry in New York State faced its most determined threats in the past two years and prevailed. Although a supermajority of Democrats in the State senate and the Assembly would appear to be insurmountable, the fossil fuel industry used its lobby arm and judicious donations to Democratic coffers to defeat legislation that would have aggressively torn into their profit models. These models, based on the continued use and expansion of fossil fuels in the state, will remain untouched by the legislature this year.

The legislature closed its session without comment on any of the climate bills that moved into committee but failed to come to the floor for a vote. The most ambitious of the climate bills, the Climate and Community Investment Act, often referred to by its initials, the CCIA, was the second half of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that passed in 2019 with far reaching mandates but without funding mechanisms. The CCIA was proposed as a “make polluters pay” tax bill, placing the burden of switching from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy – and cleaning up the pollution left behind – upon the large-scale carbon producers in the state The mechanism was a $55 tax on every ton of carbon dioxide.

The CCIA was proposed by the largest coalition of environmental organizations in the state’s history. Over 280 organizations joined the NY Renews coalition to fight for the CCIA. The coalition included environmental organizations, social justice organizations, local and regional groups, houses of worship, labor unions, and private businesses. They organized protests, rallies, education events, and an aggressive lobbying schedule across the state. The coalition far exceeded its own goals in reaching out to legislators and shepherding the bill through the legislative process. At the end of the session, legislative leaders were silent on the fate of the bill.

Two other climate bills with organized backing behind them also failed to come to a vote. The first, the Clean Futures Act, would have prohibited building new fossil fuel infrastructure in New York. The bill would have shut down three projects in Queens, Brooklyn, and Newburgh, located on the Hudson River. None of the projects are necessary for electrical capacity. The consequence of the bill’s failure is a green light for new natural gas projects.

The Build Public Renewables Act was the third bill to disappear in legislative silence. The bill would have required the New York Power Authority to provide only renewable energy and power to its customers, namely state-owned and municipal properties. The bill was passed into committee and died there.

So thoroughgoing was the fossil fuel industry and the New York Business Council in squelching all three bills, that the legislators are not speaking to any of the proponents of the bill. Members of the NY Renews coalition had been asking for weeks for clarification of hurdles and challenges to the CCIA bill. They did not receive answers. The continued silence of the legislators is a thunderous conclusion of a session that began with raised expectations of success.

Stovetop Focaccia

This recipe uses an 8” cast iron skillet with lid.

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups “OO” flour
  • ½ cup semolina flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 TBS instant yeast
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Extra oil and kosher salt set aside for cooking

Ten minutes of prep if using a food processor:

Mix flours and stir once.

Add salt and stir once.

Add yeast and stir twice.

Add olive oil one TBS at a time and stir once each time.

Add water and stir until dough forms.

Roll out dough onto plastic wrap. Work the dough until a ball is formed, sprinkling extra flour if dough is too wet and sticky. Wrap loosely in plastic and let rise on counter for a half hour.


Have kosher salt and olive oil within reach.

Split dough into three batches. (I usually freeze the other two.)

Preheat skillet to medium heat

Roll out dough to fill bottom of skillet.

Coat bottom of skillet with oil and sprinkle liberally with salt.

Place dough in pan, paint the top of the dough with oil and salt as well. Cover with lid and set timer for 3 minutes.

Flip over dough, cover, and set timer for another three minutes.

Remove cover and reduce heat to prevent burning dough.

Set timer for two minutes, flipping the dough every 30 seconds.

Remove from pan; let cool slightly and serve.

Efficiency v Health

The Western industrial style diet has spread across the world, gobbling up acres of grocery store space as it expands. This diet focuses on presenting foods on the wholesale and retail shelves and in refrigerated cases that are stable, long lasting, and appealing. The corporate food model is one of if not the most successful economic force in human history because it has transcended political systems, wars, and the territorial nature of proud countries. These corporations smugly declare they are feeding the world efficiently and they are. Whether our health can handle the efficiency is a question they do not answer.

Making ziti explains the crisis of efficiency. Marilyn’s parents lost their caretaker temporarily and the daughters had to step up, cooking meals in large pans that would last several days at a time. The shopping list was easily fulfilled at the nearby regional chain grocery store with a few boxes, cartons, and a package of ground chicken, all name brand products at reasonable prices. Released from its can, the red sauce was seasoned in the pot, the noodles dropped in boiling water, and the ground meat was quickly browned. With the ingredients prepared, all of it was combined with a whole milk ricotta and placed in a baking dish with a spread of shredded cheese on top. The ziti took forty-five minutes to prepare. While the dish baked in the oven, all the prep ware was washed and dried. The dish was easy-peasy to prepare, although my garbage can was bulging with more packaging than usual.

Unfortunately, Marilyn got a dab of ricotta on her finger as she mixed the ingredients together. She licked her finger without thinking and her tongue went numb immediately. She reacts to msg.

Marilyn’s home version of ziti takes four times as long to prepare if she is willing to put in all the effort. Pasta dough is easy to make in the food processor, although the raw dough must sit for thirty to sixty minutes before using. The dough must be rolled, dusted with more flour, and shaped into noodles or cavatelli, because we only have two machines, manual, for shaping pasta. Room must be made for the pasta to dry before boiling.

While one brand of crushed tomatoes in a can printed with “no citric acid” on its label exists, the brand has disappeared from the local shelves. Roma tomatoes are slit on the bottom with a crisscross and placed in boiling water for two minutes, dipped in cold water, and then peeled. Once chopped, the tomatoes are cooked down with herbs; a blender is used for a smooth sauce after cooking.

A half-gallon of milk is heated to 200o F, taken off the heat and the juice of two lemons and salt are added to the milk and stirred. Ten minutes later, the curds and whey are separated. The mixture is poured through cheesecloth and the ricotta is trapped in the cloth.

Ground chicken is deboned raw from whole chickens that are purchased from trusted sources. After deboning, she hauls out the mix master and inserts the meat grinding attachment. Salt and herbs are added.

The dirty dishes, bowls and pots overrun the sink and continue down the counter. However, the squashes must be roasted and the cheese shredded on the box grater, before the ziti can be assembling for baking.

Marilyn demonstrates making a ziti from scratch takes an entire afternoon while using the corporate food model reduces the time to an hour. When efficiency is primary, the corporate model using industrial processes wins hands down. However, the industrial version of ziti is toxic to Marilyn, leaving her no choice in the matter. She may be extreme, but the western diet on a corporate scale with its emphasis on stability and consistent taste across vast geographic distances affects the human body in a variety of adverse ways. Many to most fail to tolerate all the offerings at the grocery store, from mild discomfort to ongoing medical issues.

Studies in Europe and the United States highlight a myriad of deleterious effects of the western diet. Insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia (abnormal levels of cholesterol), cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cancer are the top of the list at the National Institutes of Health. According to the Royal Society for Public Health (UK), obesity and cognitive decline are major outputs of the Western-type diet. Minor effects may be small weight gains, the inability to lose weight, bloating, momentary fatigue, or listlessness.

These consequences are old news with studies presenting similar conclusions going back decades. While the peer-reviewed studies project objectivity, time has demonstrated that many of these studies are flawed. The bias in these studies, both government and corporate-sponsored, is the concentrated focus on one ingredient, full fat milk or eggs for example. The overlooked bias operates as a good magician does, look here and not there, where I do not want you to look. The health consequences come not just from the milk over here, but from what was added to the milk over there, which may be consequentially worse. The chemical additives that make skim milk drinkable may be worse for the body than the full fat pasteurized milk. Declaring “eggs are good for you” or “eggs are bad for you” ignores the fact of where and how the chickens are raised grossly affects the quality of the laid eggs. France grades the quality of its eggs as a regulatory necessity.

The bias in the science blossoms in the public realm. The media presentation of food and diet, from advertising at one extreme to documentaries on the other, places the responsibility to control health consequences of diet on the individual. “Your poor health is your fault” is the overriding message from FDA food pyramids and heath columns on news sites. The food you chose to eat made you sick. People with good health must make better choices than you do is the corollary.

The narrative is fundamentally false. Some human bodies can handle industrial food chemicals, either removing them or neutralizing them before they harm the various systems. Other bodies react strongly and negatively. Even more, the effects of exposure may be over a time scale of decades, and the accumulation of adverse reactions is slow growing. The effect may be molecule by molecule, tiny and slow to grow although the ultimate result is permanent damage to the body. Updating the media presentation of diet by adding the missing nuance, the only productive conclusion is individual choices come into play only when credible choices are available, but not until then.

The corporate model grocery store offers very few non-industrial chemical-added food products. Unsalted butter should have unpasteurized cream as the only ingredient; most brands add a second ingredient, which is msg bound in one form or another. In the produce aisle, fruits and vegetables that travel far distances are sprayed with chemicals to retard rot or they are picked un-ripened and gassed with chemicals to force ripening. Meats are painted to retard smell and discoloration. Dairy products are usually ultra-pasteurized (UHT) or mixed with additives to fix the taste and slow decomposition. Inexpensive eggs are from chickens fed an industrial diet, giving a new sordid twist to the truism “you are what you eat.” The middle aisles of the store are populated with boxes, bags, and cans of industrial chemically enhanced food products. Even table salt, which should be NaCl (sodium chloride) only, has citric acid added to it.

The prudent food choices, to use the terminology of the Royal Society, are the less adulterated foods. The grocery store is not the place to find unadulterated foods though.  An estimated 95 to 98 percent of the offered grocery products are affected by the drive for efficiency, stability, and shelf life. Corporate food producers have added industrial food chemicals or utilized highly processed methods to enhance the probability of the consumer choosing their product and choosing it again during the next shopping trip.

When health is moved to the forefront and efficiency ratcheted backwards to a lesser priority, food choices take on a different set of sensibilities. Local produce is less likely to be treated. Locally butchered meats are also less likely to be painted with retarding chemicals because their distribution channels are short and direct. The expectation of long transit waits, the purpose of retarding chemicals on produce and meats, disappears.

The foods that are safe to eat take more time to prepare and turn to rot more quickly. Efficiency has great benefits, except for the fact the processes can negatively affect health. In a health-first diet, ziti becomes a weekend dish instead of a weeknight staple. Healthy dining influences our schedules as well, readjusting time allocations.

The health costs of quick dishes were papered over or ignored for decades. Other unmentioned costs include pollution, the explosion of one-use plastics, land degradation, and worst of all, climate change. Efficiency is a carbon belching patchwork of destructive agricultural practices, long transportation routes, and spewing factories, all of which are hidden from view.

By choosing health, demanding real choices for a healthy diet, the positive consequences cascade. Our health is intimately tied to the health of the planet, and we can help both at the same time when we step back from efficiency first models.

Will Meatless Meat Save Us?

Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have made their media debut and are deep in the marketing plans for their publicity campaign. Their products are now available at fast food restaurants and coming soon to as many food-product streams as possible. Venture capital firms are bullish on the companies and the financial outlook in the press is positive. While meatless meat is the latest in processed foods to be offered to the consumer, the products, like their predecessors, follow the arc of other highly-processed food products rigorously marketed to a skeptical audience.

The marketing departments of these meatless meats are pursuing two sales pitches to woo us to their savory offerings. The first pitch is for human health, complete with a set of points of how this product is better for the human body than the meat it is replacing. They are arguing that meatless meat is the healthy choice. The second pitch is a series of arguments about climate change and degradation of the environment, and how these products benefit the planet. Their pitch is that each of us can help save the planet from ourselves by choosing meatless meat. Between the two arenas of argument stands the acclamation: they are tasty, and they taste like the meat these products are replacing; therefore, you should eat them.

The first pitch takes a page from the Heart Association, removing red meat from the human diet promotes better health. The heart and the rest of the circulatory system benefits from the removal of large quantities of animal fats in any given diet is a true, evidence based statement. These meatless meats do meet this healthier heart criterion by removing animal fats. However, these products are still higher calorie foods than grains and vegetables. They are not necessarily healthier either. The complex composition of these food products provokes other issues of human health.

These meatless meats are highly-processed, which is only a descriptive term. No scientific consensus exists on the definition of a processed food. Pasteurized milk is processed, and ultra-pasteurized (UHT) milk is highly-processed; however, the comparison between the two milks is like night and day. Pasteurized milk is heated to 212oF (100oC) until the harmful bacteria and enzymes, the pathogens, are killed. The milk is chilled and ready for consumption. Due to the application of minor heat, there are only minor changes to the nutritional quality.

Ultra-pasteurized milk is sterile milk. The milk is heated beyond boiling to 275oF (135oC) and has a burnt taste. Chemicals, including msg, are added to give the milk flavor and to mask the burnt taste. Vitamins and minerals must be added to the product as well to reproduce nutritional benefits that were destroyed by the major heat. Packaged in sterile containers, UHT milk has a typical unrefrigerated shelf life of six to nine months. All the ultra-pasteurized dairy products go through the same thorough process.

The lack of definitions of mildly processed, processed, and highly-processed is exploited by the food industry. Food producers are legally allowed to market their products as they wish, and the FDA boundaries are few. Companies trot out food scientists who will go on the record saying without a definition of processed food, no one can determine when a food is processed beyond its original state. After all, eggplant must be cooked in order to be edible. From a specific legal standing, manufacturers of highly-processed food products can claim that their foods are healthy. In every other reasonable context, the claim is ambiguous.

This ambiguity is what the meatless meat companies exploit as well. Yes, the meatless meat is processed, but so is milk and eggplant. Who is to say what product is highly-processed? Besides, the FDA approved the food product for human consumption, which means the food cannot hurt you.

Except, long term food studies on ingredient safety do not exist and even if someone were willing to pay for such a study, how would the researcher compensate for the variables of the other 20,000 different botanical and animal foods humans consume. Such data is impossible to collect and even if it were, what human would want to be constrained to such a limited diet for years? The safety testing is limited and instead of adding caution because of the limits, food companies fill the vacuum with positive marketing campaigns.

All the debate over what is processed food deliberately ignores one inescapable element of food. Vitamins and minerals in our fruits and vegetables do not present as discreet components of food. The essential elements for human health are integrated into other components, other chemicals, which help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals in our gut. These other chemicals help with digestion, providing bridges and catalysts that promote absorption. The publication of added fortified vitamins and minerals are listed on the side of the cereal box, does not confirm that the body absorbs any of them by consuming the food product in the box. The more processing, the less likelihood of absorption takes place, because most of the helpful bridge and catalyst chemicals are not present.

Whether these meatless products are healthy for you is still subject to confirmation. They are healthier in one area, no animal fat. Beef is more than fat though, giving us the essential nutrients from the muscle tissue. The more processed a product is, the more “empty calories” devoid of essential nutrients we consume. While the human digestive system digests beef efficiently, the gastrointestinal tract tends to react to artificial ingredients, creating side effects such as gastric distress. The FDA can confirm the food product will not kill you on a short-term basis, but agency’s confirmation does not verify that the product is good for you.

In the end, the consumer is left to decide with a paucity of evidence whether or not to eat highly-processed food products. While the food industry can spin the lack of evidence as a “not bad thing,” the long-term health of your physical body is what is at stake. No one knows the outcome of those stakes.

The second arena, climate change and the environment, is easier to parse as a benefit.

Cattle and their beef on one side and the environment and climate change on the other conflict in surprising ways. The raising of cattle from birth to the slaughterhouse and onto the wrapped packages in your grocery bag accounts for 25 percent of the greenhouse gases in the United States every year. Huge swathes of land are necessary to raise cattle to adulthood and these lands are not used sustainably because of the monoculture ranching business model. Large herds of cattle degrade the soil and the flora because the other natural systems that would complement bovine herds are gone. The contribution of carbon to the atmosphere from cows is far more than the intestinal gases emitted from both ends of the cow, although bovine methane is a recognized contributor. The feedlots at the end of a cow’s life are another ethical and environmental travesty with huge environmental consequences.

The pursuit of healthier beef for human consumption has a larger impact on the environment than the standard ranching models. Standard models allocate three acres per cow while grass fed cows require nine acres per cow. Three times as much land is required to raise a healthier-for-consumption cow, which hastens degradation of the land and quickens deforestation.

Reducing the amount of beef in the human diet is the non-negotiable requirement in addressing climate change. Those societies that eat large quantities of beef will be forced to cut back their consumption, some to zero. The present model is unsustainable, and as the droughts spread across the land and deepen, cattle ranching will become untenable. One way or the other, the falling consumption of beef is coming. Most people would prefer the voluntary cessation of beef without environmental devastation than the climate-induced model, one would think.

Into this great shift in diet from beef to more sustainable foods, wades the meatless meat products. Their argument is that they can give beef eaters what they crave without the actual beef, and the world is saved. While everyone welcomes the reduction in carbon, the argument overreaches.

First, we are not going to save the world through fast food franchises or through frozen meatless meat patty bundles in the freezer section of the grocery store. The absurdity of the positive impact of the food product is undeniable. Perhaps these burgers can be a small part of the solution, but they will not be the solution.

Second, highly-processed infers many steps from the point of bringing in the raw materials to transforming the ingredients into the food product. These products are complicated and the production process is complex. Quantities of energy are burned to create these burgers at scale, and that is carbon producing. Limit the manufacturing to a few regional plants and the carbon price of transporting by truck or rail go up exponentially.

Third, both Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers are soy products. Soy farming is a mono-culture farm product, meaning the soil is degraded and becomes unusable unless large quantities of artificial fertilizer are added. Corporate model farming produces far more carbon than the dynamic, multiple-culture farms where different crops rotate and complement each other, one crop taking nitrogen out of the soil and another locking nitrogen into the soil.

Further, all soy grown in the United States is GMO. The closest producer of non-GMO soybeans is Brazil, and the carbon cost of shipping between continents is astronomical. Shipping is, far and away, the most polluting form of transportation on the planet. GMO in the case of soybeans refers to soy plants that are immune to glyphosate (RoundupTM). The entire field of nearly ripe soybeans are sprayed with glyphosate. When the plants turn brown and dry out from the chemical, the field is harvested, giving the farmer a higher yield per acre. Meanwhile, glyphosate has been definitively linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma by science and the link has been upheld in court.

The meat eaters of the world will have to change their diet, or the planet will change their diet for them. Technology will not save us or our burgers. Only by changing our habits and making carbon-conscious choices will we save the planet.

These meatless meats are high-tech vegetable patties. Strip away all the hype and hyperbole, and what is left is one set of tradeoffs for another set. Try a meatless burger and if the product is tasty, enjoy the experience. However, much deeper and complex changes are necessary if we are to save our planet from climate change.