Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

13 Things I Have Learnt This Week

  1. It’s not actually possible for your head to explode.  You may want it to, but that’s another story.
  2. I’m ridiculously in love with my big girl.  She has been so worried about me being sick and she’s been adorable, cleaning, playing with her little sister and a pleasure to be around.
  3. The little one can sleep for 5 hours straight.  Several other nights there’s been a lot of crying, but that one gives us hope.
  4. I’ve never had sinusitis before.  I thought I had, but a dull ache above and below the eyes is nothing to the drill/knife/jackhammer that’s been active this week.  My entire eye socket and even my teeth hurt.
  5. There are actually about 15 trains a day from Rome to Venice, but for some reason I can’t get tickets after the 12th of December.  Later ones had better become available in the next couple of weeks.
  6. There is a Charlie and Lola live show in London on the 23rd of December.  My girls are going to LOVE it.
  7. I’ve worked out how to put together a yoked jacket with a lined hood and bodice with minimal instructions.  Now I just need time to finish the hems and buttons and for baby girl to actually try it on.
  8. It’s ok to let something go.  I always over-commit myself ridiculously and stepping back from something has changed my stress levels enormously.
  9. There is a local woman who does clothing alterations/repairs who put a new zip in my favourite jeans.  Now I just need to lose the weight so they’re comfortable again.
  10. It’s much less painful if you don’t look at everything as you sort it.  Two big boxes of baby clothes ready to go to playgroup and be passed on.
  11. I should have left the corn on the cob for both girls.  They ended up hijacking ours and we ate the kernels I’d cut off for them.
  12. I love my husband.  He’s helping deal with baby girl at night, doing his normal job and painting our new investment property after work.  And he’s been looking after me while I was sick.
  13. Between 1 and 2 is such a happy, loving, exciting, adventurous age.

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“All Natural!” … So what?

Firstly let me say I’m an evolutionary biologist by training.  So I love nature.  I think nature is amazing, awe-inspiring, incredible, and just about every other superlative.  I do not think nature is good.  In fact, I find the idea incredibly offensive.

Let me explain.  ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are human constructs based on morals.  It is a way of judging things and seeing if they measure up to our personal sense of right and wrong.  In fact I’ll go further and say the whole idea of ‘good’ nature is religious thinking, because it is based on the idea that nature was created for us, to look after us.  This is incredibly limiting.  Nature is bigger than us, and to me it takes a special kind of arrogance to think you can judge nature by human standards or in human terms.

Yes, nature has given us some amazing systems such as skeletal development, bee colonies and coral reefs.  It has also given us diptheria, tetanus and earthquakes.

Some of the most dangerous things to eat include eggs, fish and nuts – all natural.  And in the long term, fat and sugar are more likely to kill you than BPA.  Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the industrialised world, and the obesity epidemic wasn’t caused by artificial additives.  If you make homemade goodies with the most natural of butters and sugars it doesn’t matter if they are free from artificial preservatives – they are still firmly in the ‘sometimes food’ category, not ‘everyday foods’.  It is perfectly possible to be incredibly unhealthy on an ‘all-natural’ diet.

Some of the most important drugs are anti-biotics and pain killers like aspirin and morphine – all natural.  Whole classes of pharmaceuticals are based on natural chemicals from plants and moulds, because nature has been in the business of creating bio-active chemicals for a very, very long time.  But those important drugs also have side effects and can be dangerous, exactly because they work so well.  A side effect is just a biological effect of a drug other than the one we want – and nature created those drugs without worrying about what humans might want.

If you are ever told that something is ‘has no side-effects’ because it is natural then a) they’re lying or b) it doesn’t work.  How can I be so black and white?  Easily.  Natural things are messy and complicated.  They contain many different drugs in different doses, meaning there are more things there to affect your system.  And then there are interactions between drugs, where we have trouble even guessing what might happen.  Even eating fruit changes the way your gut absorbs things and can give you a dangerous overdose of some drugs!  So being natural is actually a guarantee that there will be effects other than the one you are after, which is the definition of a side-effect.  Unless of course it doesn’t have an effect at all.  Because that’s the only way you can guarantee no side-effects – if there is no effect.  Which means it doesn’t work.

As far as nature is concerned, we are one moderately successful species out of the billions that have ever lived.  It doesn’t create anything especially for us.  And the past 10,000 years of human history are largely the story of trying to get away from nature.  Fire, planting our own food, living in one place, sanitation, electric lights, comfortable beds, these are all ways of avoiding nature.  And I like it.  I like being able to stay up past sunset because I have light.  I like being able to have a hot shower and a flush toilet.  I like being able to keep my food fresh in a refrigerator, and get fruit and vegetables that are out of season and don’t grow in this area.  I especially like that my children are not likely to die.  Living to see my grandkids grow up will be another bonus.  All of these things are ‘against nature.’

Like I said, I love nature.  I am fascinated and awed by it.  It has created some amazing things, including planets and ecosystems and even the human brain.  But it is not human so I don’t judge it in human terms.  And I don’t use it to judge other things.  It’s not a way to tell if a food is healthy – it might be, it might not.  It’s not a way to tell if a drug will work and be safe.  It’s not even a way to tell if a parenting practice will be good for my children.  These are complicated questions and lots of factors need to be considered, not just how natural they are.

So if you try to sell me something by telling me it’s “all natural!”  my considered response will be “So what?”

13 Things We Did Today (well, yesterday, I’m writing this Wednesday night)


1. Played in the paddling pool – with warm water!

2. Pretended they were puppy dogs – fetching balls and bringing them back in their mouths.

3. Did the grocery shopping, sans underwear for baby girl because it took so long to get ready I forgot she’d taken them off.

4. Attempted to get baby girl to sleep while big girl was strapped in the highchair (her choice) with extra food and the remote control.

5. Got up to deal with big girl being stuck, gave up on bed and ended up getting baby girl to nap in my arms.

6. Big girl whispered ‘Fox in Socks’ to me and I did the long pages.

7. Collected and filled a million water bottles while both girls ferried them to the fridge and poked them in any gaps they could find.

8. Cooked chocolate cupcakes and decorated them with bright pink icing and sprinkles.

9. Sang nursery rhymes on my bed.

10. Daddy came home!

11. Chopped up chicken while big girl put it in the egg and flour and told me how much she loved having chicken for tea.

12. Counted each mouthful of salad for big girl and coaxed her to eat one tiny piece of chicken because she doesn’t like it.

13. Got out 50 pieces of ice because big girl ran into a pole while trying to sneak up on Daddy and split her lip and baby girl decided that sucking on ice sounded pretty good.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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Apparently I’m not just Evil, I’m childish too

This picture tells two stories: of the often fatal consequences of bottle-feeding, and more profoundly, about the ages-old bias in favor of boys. The child with the bottle is a girl. She died the day after this photo was taken. Her twin brother was breast-fed. The woman's mother-in-law said the young mother should breast-feed only the boy, as she would not have milk for two. But almost certainly she could have fed both children herself, because the process of suckling induces milk production. "Use my picture if it will help," the mother told UNICEF. "I don't want other, people to make the same mistake"

This picture tells two stories: of the often fatal consequences of bottle-feeding, and more profoundly, about the ages-old bias in favor of boys. The child with the bottle is a girl. She died the day after this photo was taken. Her twin brother was breast-fed. The woman's mother-in-law said the young mother should breast-feed only the boy, as she would not have milk for two. But almost certainly she could have fed both children herself, because the process of suckling induces milk production. "Use my picture if it will help," the mother told UNICEF. "I don't want other, people to make the same mistake" Photo ACC/SCN, courtesy of Children's Hospital, Islamabad, Pakistan

Thanks to Hoyden About Town for the heads up on this story.

Mummy Bloggers spit the dummy over Nestle’s spoilt milk

To start, I thought I’d dig out this photo for the Sydney Morning Herald, they don’t seem to have been able to find it.  I’m hoping I’ve interpreted it correctly that I can use it.  On to the rest of the article.

“Mummy bloggers spit the dummy”

“Hell hath no fury like a mummy blogger scorned”

Well there’s a nice characterisation to begin with – we’re babies who throw tantrums and over-react (that’s general, I don’t like the Mummy blogger tag and many of the people involved aren’t).  And all in the first two lines.  So do we deserve it?

There was some pretty nasty stuff going around on Twitter from both sides.  But have a look at the actual blogs and listen to the non-bloggers involved in the boycott.  Does this sound like a tantrum?  Or this?  Or even this?   And the fury was there well before Nestle refused to answer questions.  Not doing well so far, Sydney Morning Herald.  Let’s have a look at the rest.

They got something right, Nestle is one of the world’s most boycotted companies, but it’s not just a dirty water issue.  Please don’t get hung up on formula and forget the child slaves or water rights.  And their timeline is basically backwards, implying that there were already large social media protests and Nestle needed a chance to ‘give their side.’ Sorry guys, not quite how it happened.

Nestle set the event up, probably to test the waters using social media for marketing.  Incredibly cheap marketing don’t forget – what is the cost of giving 20 people a weekend away and giving their family some steak compared with a television campaign?  According to at least one of the attendees, they’d never heard of any questions about Nestle’s ethics and it wasn’t what the conference was about.  But the skewed timeline in this report makes it look as if poor little Nestle was just defending themselves against those nasty activists.

No bloggers were interviewed (or at least there are no responses in the article) but Nestle Australia was.

“This just goes to show that the blogosphere is a tough place to try to have a rational argument!,” she wrote in an emailed statement.

“The event at Nestle USA was held to introduce our company to a number of bloggers. It was very successful, which of course absolutely infuriated the small, biased, vocal group whose anti-Nestle opinions are so entrenched that no matter what we do, they will twist it to present us in the worst possible light.”

Well as a blogger and a Mummy*, whom the Sydney Morning Herald didn’t consult in this story, I have a few comments on that statement.

  1. Nestle hasn’t engaged anyone in the blogosphere on the boycott and their marketing practices, but this list of questions would be an excellent place to start. It looks pretty rational to me.
  2. The large, informed, vocal group was telling you they were infuriated way before the event happened.  It’s because of those dying babies and child slaves.
  3. One of the reasons we’re infuriated is you don’t do anything.  You talk, you make statements, you spin.  But you don’t debate.  You don’t answer questions.  You don’t change your unethical marketing practices.  You don’t buy fair trade cocoa.

So here are a few suggestions for Nestle, and if you do them we’ll look at what light is appropriate:

  • Answer those questions from PhD in Parenting.  As soon as you do, I’ll help get your answers out there.
  • Answer some of the other questions you avoided on Twitter.
  • Agree to the 4-point plan for ending the boycott – it’s only four points!  You can do it!
  • Decide that maybe lives are more important than profits.  You’re one of the world’s largest food producers, so you do have the economic muscle to effect change.

And SMH?  I came away from the original Twitter storm thinking the bloggers invited were a bit naive.  But after all, they’re amateurs who just didn’t think that things like child slavery still exist and didn’t think to check out the company talking to them.  And who wouldn’t be flattered – a multinational company thinks I’m important enough to invite?  I’m not a journalist, I’m a mother and a blogger, with absolutely no training in writing or journalism.  But I can manage to do at least a little bit of reading on this issue and discuss it without meaningless, insulting cliches.  I think there is a lesson for both types of media here – bloggers need to realise that with readers comes responsibility.  And journalists need to remember that they are under scrutiny.

*Actually, there are only two people on this earth who get to call me Mummy.  Neither of them has anything to do with Nestle or the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mummy bloggers spit the dummy over Nestle’s spoilt milk


October 7, 2009 – 3:05PM

Comments 4

A baby drinks milk from a bottle in Sri Lanka.A baby drinks milk from a bottle in Sri Lanka. Photo: AP

Hell hath no fury like a mummy blogger scorned

I Am Evil

I am a thief.

I keep child slaves.

I kill babies.

Those of you on Twitter have probably heard about the #Nestlefamily debacle.  It’s made it’s way onto Facebook as well, and of course the blogosphere.  If you’re wondering, very briefly, Nestle offered several Mommy Bloggers a junket, in return they would write and Tweet about Nestle and their products.  Many activists found out about this.  It started polite but degenerated into name calling, racism and extreme nastiness.  There’s a good round-up of it here with some eye-opening comments.

Extremely briefly, for those who don’t know, Nestle has been the subject of a boycott for about 30 years.  They aggressively market infant formula to mothers in third world countries and marginalised groups (read race) in developed nations, telling outright lies and giving free samples.  Then when mothers have lost their own milk they stop giving it out.  That’s how I kill babies.

But wait, there’s more.  You see Nestle is a huge corporation that does more than baby formula.  They also sell things like bottled water, which has to come from somewhere.  In the US, rural communities have been pressured and manipulated and their water rights have been stolen.  That’s why I am a thief.  And chocolate?  Most of the world’s cacao comes from Ivory Coast where many of the farms use child slave labour, children who have been kidnapped or sold by their families.  That’s where I keep my child slaves.

The blogs I have linked to and Baby Milk Action have covered it in detail from a number of perspectives, and I didn’t want to write about it unless I had something different to offer.  But a comment on one of the blogs started me thinking about evil.  My own personal definition of evil goes something like “knowingly hurting other people unnecessarily.” I think we can all agree that Nestle qualifies.

And unfortunately, so do I.

I know what Nestle does and I help them do it, either by buying their products or saying nothing.  And there’s no way I can argue that chocolate is necessary.  How can I do this?

I think it comes down to the personal.  When I read a comment that “the only child slave labour in this house is my kid opening a Crunch bar,” I feel revulsion, and I’m sure many of you do too.  When I see a picture of a Pakistani mother with twins, one healthy, one half the size and dying, I am horrified, and I’m sure you are too.  When I read about these things I resolve to boycott Nestle and all the other products it profits from.  But when someone gives me a lipgloss from The Body Shop (not tested on animals! shame about the babies) am I rude to them?  When my cat only eats Friskies biscuits, I still like having dry food available rather than only meats.  When I get my little girl a treat it’s convenient to have the Peters tub of vanilla icecream rather than the stick she can wave everywhere while it melts.  And so in the everyday details my horror and revulsion and resolve are lost.

Children in Africa, Hispanic mothers in the US, I feel for them in the moment but they are too far away from me personally to permanently impact on my heart.  So I need to make this personal.

I need to internalise it and make it about me, my children, my community.  Maybe then I will be stricter about finding out all the brands to avoid.  Maybe then I will be polite but firm with people who give me gifts.  Maybe then I will start to tell others about this (that’s one of the things I found most shocking – that so many people don’t seem to know) rather than keeping the peace at playgroup.  Being a good person is important to me, maybe the brutal realisation that I am evil is a way I can personalise it and force myself to do something about it.

How is it personal for you?

Because I don’t want to remain evil.  Do you?

Revision! A lovely lady passed on an Australian list to me:


I haven’t blogged in a few weeks because I’ve recently returned to work, and it turns out that being at work takes up a lot more of my time than I remember. Some mornings, it really does take ages to get a toddler out of bed and dressed.

Anyway, being that I’m back at work, I’m back in the swing of packing lunches. I have a bit of a thing about lunches – I love packing tasty, healthy foods. Even more than that, though, I like packing pretty lunches.

baby bento - sushi and tomato

The Japanese have a tradition of packing nifty lunchboxes, called bento. The word ‘bento’ simply means ‘boxed lunch’ or something like that, but that’s a deceptively simple explanation. The most simple bento is a box of rice with an umeboshi, but bento may also be incredibly elaborate. Apparently some mothers at certain kindergartens in Japan compete with each other to make the most intricate bento for their children, with the result that they spend hours fiddling about with food.

I don’t do that. I like speed bento. Although I like spending a few minutes on pretty flourishes sometimes, I really don’t want to spend more time preparing a lunch than I do eating it.

There are plenty of resources around on how to pack a bento for adults. Where I find bento techniques incredibly useful though is in packing toddler lunches.

Bento has taught me three things. The first is how to choose and pack foods so that they’ll be safe to eat. The second is how to make the best use of available space – the more compact a lunch, the better, in my view. The third is how to make lunch look delicious.

toddler bento - lots of yummy things!

Everyone eats first with their eyes, and then with their mouth. This is particularly true of toddlers, who are notoriously fussy. Even children like mine, who will eat anything at all, have fussy days – favourite foods suddenly become anathema and are eyed suspiciously. Bento encourages the use of colour, particularly foods which are colourful in their natural state – different coloured vegetables, and the fresher the better. Bento often also incorporates cute touches like miniature food picks or vegetables cut into interesting shapes. Little picks are not just pretty – for a toddler, they can be a way of making some foods easier to eat. Little divider cups don’t just keep food separate – toddlers love investigating containers and sampling the treasures contained therein.

You don’t need a lot to get started with bento. You can spend a lot of money on a purpose-designed bento box, or you can simply use any old plastic container. Because I have a bit of a thing about lunches, I do have quite a collection of bento boxes, but I also have quite a collection of other plastics. The toddler bento pictured in this entry all use containers bought from a supermarket or department store: the first two are Willow containers, about $8 or $9 for a pack of three; and the third are made by Décor and cost less than that, again for a pack of three. I collect plastic spoons from our local gelateria and icecream parlours. Although you can buy vegetable cutters to make flowers or animals, you can also easily and quickly cut fruit into traditional designs.

fruit and sammiches

Reckon you can do it? I reckon you can! Pretty soon you’ll be looking for excuses to pack lunches for your kids – or for yourself.