The story of flavorful heirloom corn

The story of flavorful heirloom corn

I hope more heirloom/ genetically diverse crops come back into our fields and onto our plates. It is a real pity that commercial considerations have pushed out foodcrop species towards monoculture and low generic diversity.

We now have a chance of turning back this direction and re-kindling lost varieties that deliver more flavor and nutrition.

“So why did farmers stop growing this corn? For everything that New England Eight Row Flint corn has going for it in terms of flavor, its big downside is that it doesn’t produce many cobs. It’s a low-yield corn.

“That’s why farmers moved to higher-yield [varieties],” explains Algiere. “They can get more corn per acre at lower quality.” Farmers produce for bulk because they’re paid by the bushel, not by the color or the flavor.

So varieties such as New England Eight Row Flint corn may produce great taste, but they’re not really commercially viable unless you convince more people to pay for taste over volume.

That’s what chef Barber is doing at Blue Hill. He serves a polenta made from the Eight Row Flint corn grown at Stone Barns.

And when I tasted it, I was surprised. The polenta tasted as if he had added butter. It was creamy and flavorful. Diners who have been turned onto it say the flavor is stunningly complex. “It’s kinda crazy,” he says.

The taste is coming directly from the corn.

Barber says this corn is just one example of what can happen when crops are bred to be flavorful and colorful, not just big.

The chef says he hopes this story becomes more than just a foodie fascination with heirlooms because he thinks there’s more at stake here about the way our food is grown.

“What I’ve come to learn from this experience is that if you are pursuing great flavor,” he says, “you are pursuing great nutrition. It’s one and the same.”

Reviving an heirloom corn (NPR)

The US of A’s ‘disposition matrix’

The US of A's 'disposition matrix'

What sort of monster has the US of A become? Orwell is crying in his grave. The Cold War sure was awful but this uni-polar world is starting to get really really nasty too.

Barack Obama’s weekly counter-terrorism meetings get to decide on what happens to drawn up targets from around the world. We are talking about human targets, Al-Shabaab figures or anyone else that US wants killed or silenced. The NSA no doubt plays a role in ferreting out where each person might be and the extensive network of military bases and drones play their role in carrying out the killings. The list is a secret and there is no rule for getting on it though the CIA and the military certainly contribute.

In Pakistan some 400 people have been killed in almost as many drone attacks since 9/11. A special court could be given oversight of these targeted, mostly extra-judicial killings. Others, who aren’t killed, could end up in black sites across the world, unknown prisons maintained by the US where people can be kept beyond international law or much legal oversight. No doubt some will be interrogated, tortured or otherwise pressured into confessions of some sort.

It seems the US is playing the international sheriff role and doing it in a wild west style as well: no international oversight, no democratic checks and balances, no proper procedures of justice. While I do not doubt there are some incredibly pesky terrorists around the world (small numbers, not very well armed or organised in general compared to the US) that the US deems to be against its interests. However, I cannot see why it would be of any benefit to the US or to anyone else to be acting in the above manner and creating a vast, complex, secret net of institutions that continues to carry out these killings.

However I can see a lot that the US and other supposedly fully democratic countries stand to lose: basic democratic principles such as fairness, justice and oversight. Sacrificing the most cherished basic values is a good recipe to losing the most basic meaning and values of a state. I also doubt most people want to live in a world that hurtles towards less security, less fairness and a setup in which one country and its allies are the only ones truly making the rules. What will be the checks, who will even know about these secret killings? What if they extend to others who are not exactly terrorists or are completely innocent of any crime and how will we ever know?

This is very scary. With the codename ‘disposition matrix’ it is also decidedly Orwellian. This is most definitely not the future anyone was hoping for when the Cold War ended.

Scandinavian success with parental leave

Scandinavian success with parental leave

Norway, Denmark and Sweden have achieved unprecedented productivity, high wages and 80% female workforce participation, higher than that of the OECD in general and 6 points higher than in Australia. Their secret? Paying a full 12 months’ parental leave with universal access to childcare and highly subsidised rates as well.

At first I was astounded to read that Norwegian and Swedish mothers or fathers get a whole year off with payment, but what should really surprise conservative politicians is that this arrangement does not bring down productivity, but quite the opposite, it increases it.

It’s been well-known for a while that if women are supported in their choices by getting parental leave and universal access to childcare (omg, I would die for this!!) then women have more children, get back to work in larger numbers AND are more satisfied. They will also be able to breastfeed more and the children’s health will be higher (something the below article doesn’t go into).

Amazingly, unlike Australians who are working more and more hours each year and now areone of the most overworked of the OECD countries (that’s right, we think we are laid back but actually we are now stressed and overworked instead!), Scandinavians often leave work at 4pm. They work hard, are well organised and have flexible work arrangements. True, the Norwegians have a lot of oil money, but Australia too is pretty rich at the moment and is riding high on a resources boom (which is sending Earth to climate hell) so there is no doubt in my mind that we would be able to afford the same.

The next Australian Government should take note: the Scandinavian way is not only more humane and contributes immensely to societal wellbeing but it’s also the economically rational way of proceeding. One of those rare times when the two most definitely can coincide.

Feminism and compulsory monogamy

I agree with this wholeheartedly. Breaking compulsory monogamy will be to the benefit of women and harbors the possibility of breaking new grounds in equality between men and women.

But it isn’t that simple. Polyamory with equality at its heart is only possible when a certain level of equality is already achieved. But then it is time to break with the shackles of compulsory monogamy.

Should feminists be critical of compulsory monogamy?

“As feminists, I believe we have an interest in supporting, rather than condemning, egalitarian polyamorous relationships. These relationships reject male ownership of women and offer a challenge to traditionally gendered expectations for monogamy. In turn, they have the potential to disrupt gender roles in an even broader sense. We all stand to benefit from supporting relationships that serve as a model for less patriarchal, less hierarchical ways of intimately relating to one another.
It would be unreasonable to argue that all feminists should reject monogamous relationships, just as it is unreasonable to suggest that all feminists should reject heterosexuality. Monogamous, heterosexual relationships can be wonderfully egalitarian, too, and certainly not everyone has the desire or the inclination to be in multiple romantic relationships simultaneously. But just as one can be straight and still critical of compulsory heterosexuality, it is possible to engage in monogamous relationships and yet still be critical of the institution of compulsory monogamy. I hope we can begin having a dialogue about this institution, examining what it is and how it functions, and envisioning a future without it.”