Friday, February 29, 2008

Quotes from ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ keep beef off my plate

I should take a few steps back from the line re meatloaf in my last post because, I’m not kidding, I have been eating a lot less meat for quite some time.

Though I do eat meat on occasion (yup, I’m a flexitarian) it is hardly ever beef - due to the influence of several books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen and informative comments from friends.

Good ideas in some books and great ideas in others usually find a home inside my little round head.

For example, I will never forget the sardonic Scaramouche (from the book of the same name by Rafael Sabatini) who was "born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."

I read the book twice while in my teens (all the way through too) and feel I am still much like him, though rather than mad I think the world is just a bit out of whack, slightly off kilter and in need of an extensive tune up. Now.

One of the three books I have on the go right now is affecting how I look at every meal I eat, and I eat a lot of them.

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan I am learning about the unsettling connections between oil, fertilizer, dead land, cheap corn, unnaturally fat cows, tons of antibiotics, truck loads of fat and doctors on factory farms who say things like:

“Hell, if you gave them (cattle) lots of grass and space, I wouldn’t have a job.”

It’s enough to make me take several more steps back from meatloaf.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Family secret: Making something out of nothing is a Harrison trait

One day when I was a wee tad I watched my mother stretch a pound of lean ground beef into a mighty meatloaf for seven.

She added oatmeal and bread crumbs and a bunch of other stuff to a mixing bowl, stirred in the beef and for the umpteenth time created a hearty meal fit for a king, queen and their brood of five runny-nosed kids.

[She usually included a can of peas, a few potatoes and tall stack of sliced bread on a Melmac plate to round things out.]

So, after I read a short story about Tim Horton’s plans to introduce self-serve coffee machines to Canadians, I knew that with a bit of oatmeal etc. I had myself a new weekly column.

[Photo: faithful customer worries about prospect of pouring his own coffee in the near future]

First thing I did was come up with a scary title:

Unfair! Un-Canadian! Tim Horton’s will pass hard times onto its faithful customers

(Twelve words long. Geez, I’m half done already.)

Then I fiddled around with ideas for the beginning, middle and end of a stretched-out story and posted them at the fastest growing group blog in Canada - Four Mugs and a Crock.

Though the posts are just practice, by deadline I’m sure it will be a brilliant column, almost as good (I hope) as meatloaf for supper.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Next column: Do I go with two emails or a possible threat to national security?

Two days ago I mentioned an email from Alex L. and yesterday my reply.

I think I handled things pretty well, didn’t blow my stack or tear a strip off the guy etc., though for a second or two I really wanted to... just once!

I think I might use the little back and forth as fodder for my next column because there are a couple of things Alex said about me that still stick in my craw.

First, he mentioned that at the age of 10 he “knew the adults were crazy [and] willfully blind to what was obvious to any child 40 or 50 years ago, that the path our society was on was unsustainable.” 

His words stung.

When I was 10, not only did I not know an unsustainable path from a hole in the ground, if someone had asked me about the path society was on I would have pointed to Highway 59, the main route out of town.

And I was way too busy playing catch, delivering papers or cutting our huge lawn with a stupid push mower to look up ‘unsustainable’ in the dictionary.

I did know, however, that adults were crazy. The clothes they wore were not rad at all. Not even neato.

Second, Alex laid one on me about the title of the piece, that in it I was “telling everyone else NOW we should get ready to act ("get ready" to act - ?!).”

Hey, my editor picked that title, not me.

The original was something like “Got five minutes and seven bucks? Have I got a deal for you.”

Not too exciting, I admit.

Maybe I should go with a completely different story.

If I can prove Tim Horton’s recent decision to use self-serve coffee machines is a threat to national security, maybe even mass insecurity, I may have a winner.


Monday, February 25, 2008

It Strikes Me Funny: What’s the big deal? Even greybeards can change

Recently an email arrived that lumped me in with (David) “Suzuki and other hypocrites” which is pretty good company as far as I’m concerned.

[See yesterday’s post: It Strikes Me Funny: email re my hypocrisy and golden pension]

If I get gobsmacked for encouraging people to read Gwynne Dyer’s recent column re climate change or buy The Little Green Handbook re seven critical global trends that’s the least of my worries.

To the sender I replied:

Hi Alex,

You were a little wiser than I was at 10 and 18 years of age; I didn't think much about sustainability (other than inside my own house) until much later in life.

You make some good points.

I did commute to work for a good number of years, and apart from a few years on the bus, a few more on a bicycle and many on foot  (during 15 years at Aberdeen P.S. I usually walked to work), I put a lot of inner city miles on cars (a VW bug, Toyota Corolla, Ford Escort, 4 cylinder Caravan and 2 Civics).

Also, now I do sit at home and write a column (after I've counted all my money or motorcycled to Port Bruce on my '84 Yamaha; 8 bucks includes gas and coffee at the Sand Kastle), in which I occasionally remind people to be more earth friendly.

And because I'm not the brightest penny in the jar I thought it a great idea to encourage folks to buy an inexpensive book that provides excellent insight into the reasons why we should (be more earth friendly).

Though this greybeard is guilty as charged in some areas, I think I am not alone in coming to the table late, and to others like me I hope to offer a few helpful words.

So, while you toil away, telling the young about the hypocrites and preparing them to be tough enough to survive, I'll keep plugging away in my small corner too.

I think the problems are so immense a steady effort is required from both of us.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

It Strikes Me Funny: email re my hypocrisy and golden pension

My weekly column usually flies under most people’s radar.

A few regular readers like the fact it’s the same size as the bottom of their budgie cage so they can use it twice.

But another greybeard sent me the following last night:

[For context; I am a retired teacher, have a pension, own a motorcycle (1984 Virago) and encouraged readers last week (in an article my editor entitled ‘Got seven bucks? Buy this book and get ready to act’) to read a G. Dyer article re climate change and buy The Little Green Handbook, “$5.99 at Chapters”.]

“GH, when I was a child of 10, and then again as a temporary hippie at age 18, I knew the adults were crazy.  They were willfully blind to what was obvious to any child 40 or 50 years ago, that the path our society was on was unsustainable.” 

“Now we've got greybeards, who probably used their cars for decades to commute to the job that now provides them with their gold-standard pension that enables them to sit home (when they're not riding their toys around) and write articles, telling everyone else NOW we should get ready to act ("get ready" to act - ?!).”

“How convenient for them!  And how typical - begin by spending money and consuming a book!”

“I say to the young, ignore the Suzukis and other hypocrites as they ignored you while they were blinded by their greed - we're all about to reap what we've sown, and prepare to be one of the few and toughest who might be lucky enough to survive!”

Alex L., greybeard

I’m going to reply to Alex as soon as I finish my coffee.

He might ignore my words but I hope he’ll accept my copy of The LGH after I’ve finished with it.

[Find my latest prize winning piece at The Londoner]