"The ethical decision is always the fearsome decision. When something matters enough that we are afraid of the consequences–afraid that even the honorable choice could result in harm or loss or sorrow–that’s when ethics are involved."
Henry W. Bloch, The Importance of Ethics

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lose the Can Opener: Black Beans

When I started this homemade black bean project I assumed that I could not flavor my beans enough to taste as good as the canned beans that I usually buy. I found that the fresh black beans do not actually need much flavoring because the beans have a fresh flavor that I didn't even know existed! The canned beans rely on large amounts of salt and other seasonings to make up for the lack of freshness.

To make your own homemade black beans:

    1 C dried black beans
    1 onion, roughly chopped
    2 cloves of garlic, chopped
    1 tsp cumin
    1 tsp ground sage (to help reduce gassiness caused by beans)
    1 bay leaf
    1 tsp apple cider vinegar
    salt and pepper to taste

  1. Soak one cup of dried beans overnight in a large container with plenty of water covering the beans.
  2. Drain the beans and wash them well.
  3. Put the beans in a pot with the onion and 2 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. (Add more boiling water as necessary).
  4. Add the garlic, cumin, sage, and bay leaf, and continue simmering for another half hour.
  5. Test the beans for tenderness, some should have cracked, but they should not be mushy.
  6. Add the vinegar at the end. Salt and pepper to taste.

Notes: my soaking and cooking times are based on the super-fresh beans I purchased at the farmer's market, beans purchased in bulk at the grocery store will need to cook for substantially longer (Total simmering time may be as long as 2.5 hours)! It is important to keep a close watch on your beans!

Black beans are a staple at our house. My go-to lunch often consists of canned Bush's Best Black Beans on a tortilla with cheddar cheese and, if I'm lucky, hot sauce from my favorite Mexican restaurant in Colorado Springs.

When we were at the farmers market a couple of weeks ago we stumbled on fresh dried black beans, and I knew that this had the potential to be my first shift toward a more sustainable product. As far as I can tell, the Bush's company is ethical in its treatment to laborers, selecting their beans from farms around the United States, so I will confess this may not be the major change I am hoping for in my consumer practices, but it's moving toward something like it.

At the very least making your own black beans has some environmental benefits: eating local produce saves energy resources used to transport the products, this applies to the black beans as well as the onions and herbs used to flavor them. Also-- fresh just seems healthier than canned.

After making the homemade black beans, we decided to go full out and make homemade tortillas and mexican style rice to go with them! The results were AMAZING.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Health Benefits of Eating Fair

I'm not sure how much I trust Buzz Feed, but the following article did get me thinking: 8 Foods We Eat that are Banned in Other Countries.  How is it that we as Americans know so little about the poisons in our food?
Where do you want your food grown?

We've been bombarded with the lie that processed foods are somehow more efficient than fresh foods. How is forcing our bodies to process non-food items in order to save a few minutes more efficient than filling our bodies with actual food that nourishes us and gives us energy? And it's not like the above information is ground breaking news-- we know that many processed foods are full of poison! What's shocking is that we accept this information and keep eating them!

Even as I write this I am daydreaming of pink frosted doughnuts. The delicious sweetness layered on soft fluffy cake and topped with sprinkles. A concoction built from wheat so processed as to lose all nutritional value, fried in genetically modified canola oil (Non-GMO Project), and topped with pink chemicals developed in labs. Yum? Yet, in the coming weeks I wouldn't be surprised if I experience
temporary amnesia and eat one of these non-food wonders.  Something is seriously wrong here.

Though, perhaps this inability to be as good as we want to be isn't ground breaking news either. In fact, it's Biblical-- "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do," Romans 7:15. It's human nature to go against the best interest of the world around us (and ultimately ourselves), but now we have money machines, companies that truly don't give a damn about our health or well-being, manipulating us into thinking that something as ridiculous as eating the petroleum-based chemicals found in artificial food dye is acceptable!

Thankfully, my desire to take care of my own body is in good company with my desire to buy fair-trade and organic products. It's been my personal observation that companies that care a little more about the world around us care about our health a little more too. Though fair trade is more expensive, I'd rather give my money to people who are looking out for my best interests than people who use my money to further confuse me with their mass-marketed non-foods.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Clear Information Unavailable

"Mysteries abound where most we seek for answers."
–Ray Bradbury

I'm finding that this blog is going to be harder to write than I initially anticipated. Partly because good information is harder to find than I had hoped.

In my internet searches for a magical list that would break down which companies are "good" and which companies are "bad," I have found very little. One company I researched showed up on both a list of "Most Ethical" companies in America and a list of companies to avoid for unethical practices.

I found what almost appears to be a good website for what I'm looking for called Ethical Consumer. This website actually allows you to explore company ethics using five different scales that you can adjust depending on how important each category is for you. Categories include: Environment, Animals, People, Politics, and Product sustainability. The website provides detailed information about why companies are or are not ethical based on these scales-- just what I've been looking for, but...

Ethical Consumer is based in the UK and analyzes mostly companies based in the UK, thus making it impractical for my concerns, especially considering that one can only access their information through paid membership to the site. As much as I believe that information regarding ethical consumerism is valuable, I can't help questioning how ethical it is to put a price on ethics. What are they getting at here? Maybe its simply a basic need for funding in order to gather information... but it's striking how rich some non-profit CEOs can get.

All I have been able to gather so far is that if a company actually uses ethical practices, it will probably advertise the hell out of how ethical it is. If a company isn't advertising how ethical it is, it probably isn't very ethical. Even companies that advertise themselves as ethical often fall short of what we'd like them to be. As far as my primary ethical concern, fair human labor practices, I gather that the safest bets are products grown or made in countries with laws protecting laborers and, for those of us lucky enough to live in farm states, local farmer's markets.

I've found very little in my search for proof that some of my favorite products and chain restaurants are ethical businesses. If I'm really going to make the life-change to eat and shop ethically, I suspect that there will be certain things that I will just have to go without.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Seed of Interest

My interest in ethical eating started with the film Bananas!*. My International Relations professor showed us this documentary during my first semester of college, and I was horrified. The film sheds light on the violence and exploitation taking place in the banana industry. Exploitation and slavery are still very much a part of the American economic system today. Only now, it's typically out of the country, out of sight, and covered by manipulative mass marketing techniques.

Thinking about ethical eating confuses and frustrates me. Even as I attempt to understand more, road blocks pop up in every direction from finances to corporate manipulation, and I find myself not knowing what to believe. Systems, economies, and markets are realities that are too huge for me to control. At times I have felt resigned to accepting the exploitation as just part of living in the United States, but I can't believe that it has to be this way.

We are a country that decides again and again to open our minds to the ideal that all people are created equally. As we continue to progress toward greater equality for all within our culture and legal system, we continue to reveal inadequacies in our actions, which leads to more change and more openness.

This blog is not about judging the way anyone eats. It's about growing in our understanding of where our food is coming from and how we can consume in such a way that better benefits the earth, animal life, and humanity.

This blog is also a means of documenting my own progress. I am starting from square one. I know nothing more than that the exploitation exists. I am addicted to foods and restaurants that I suspect of poor ethical decision making. My husband and I have little expendable income. Not only will we have to learn what foods are ethical and what foods are not, we will also have to learn to change our financial priorities to take the monetary hit that appears to come along with ethical eating.