Alicia's Food For Thought

Eating Animals
December 22, 2010, 8:20 PM
Filed under: Media Bites | Tags: , , , ,

Over winter break I thought I would take advantage of all the down time I have and catch up on some food books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf.

I’m current reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

On September 16th I actually saw Jonathan Safran Foer when he spoke at NYU. He is a professor here in the Creative Writing Program.

I have not read any of his other books, but as of right now, the book seems very “Omnivore’s Dilemma”-esque with a mixture of The Jungle. It is a bit more narrative and family-oriented since he was inspired to do research about the meat industry with the birth of his son. I do like how he pokes fun at being an on again and off again vegetarian (aka a flexitarian). It definitely is a timely book since I decided to reintroduce meat into my diet once the year is up.

I also wonder why so many books are coming out about food? I guess it is a hot trend especially with the Food Safety Bill S150 and the Child Nutrition Bill thanks to the great work of Michelle Obama.

I’ll definitely give my full review on it once I finish the book so stay tuned!

What books are you reading over winter break?


Alicia Kim


No Impact Man – Film Review

Hi readers,

After spending a lovely time in Union Square Park with Jamie yesterday, I watched No Impact Man, a 2009 documentary about Colin Beavan and his family going through a social experiment of having “no impact” on the earth (i.e. eating sustainably, producing no garbage, not spending any money on new clothes, no electricity, etc.). You follow their journey in answering the question, “Is it possible to enjoy a good life without wasting so much?” Usually I watch documentaries that revolve around food and the social/political/cultural implications food has on our lives, but this film really encompasses the whole gambit of consumption (electricity/energy, food, garbage, etc.) and how each individual person/family is affecting the environment.

I applaud Colin for wanting to actually live out the values he believes in and for recording his journey (I’m including his book No Impact Man to my list of books to buy). When I hang out with my friends, we sometimes talk about how we want to help the Earth and that we wish we could actually do something. We do our part in recycling… but that’s about it. It seems like the Earth’s (and consequently ours) problems seem to be looming overhead. We know that they are there, and we know they need to be addressed, but I feel like I have no tools to bring those problems down into my hands so that I become a part of the solution.

Here is the trailer to the documentary if you are interested:

Colin does a really good job at researching different techniques and ideas as to how these “no impact” phases are going to pan out over the year. As a writer, he is obviously well versed in finding resources to help him with his narrative and he writes in his blog in hopes to inspire and influence others to make their footprint smaller on the world. It is almost ironic how “No Impact Man” really does want to make an impact on the world but in a way that it doesn’t actually impact the world in a harmful way. I think his emphasis on research is really important because before we can do anything, we first need to know what we are talking about. In order for him to measure the changes his one family has on the waste of the world, he needs to know how many pounds of garbage they produce in a day, he needs to know how many joules go into making producing a hamburger patty versus a root vegetable, and he needs to know which vendors he can buy sustainable products from. His devotion of time and effort to finding out and figuring out how to live out his values speaks volumes to how much he cares about this issue.

My favorite person in the documentary was Colin’s wife, Michelle Conlin. She is a writer for Business Week and really brings humor and the difficult aspects of this experiment to the documentary. The dynamic between Colin and Michelle almost makes this documentary into a romantic comedy. Colin acts as the wide-eyed idealist that wants to change the world and that change can be easily implemented while Michelle has a realist’s perspective and questions how they are going to survive as a family living a “no impact” lifestyle aka not having a cup of coffee (because it is not locally grown) or ice cubes (because she doesn’t have a refrigerator let alone a freezer to have them). Michelle goes a long with most of the experiment but “breaks” the rules by “taking care of me” such as dying her hair at a salon, or grabbing an espresso shot in order to meet her story’s deadline. She makes the whole situation seem very human. Colin is almost too extreme and it almost takes away the feasibility of living a “no impact” lifestyle. I personally would not be able to have a box of compost and worms in my apartment (especially during the Summer months when they are not allowing themselves to use the AC)- but Michelle convinces me that you can work through the struggle and get to the other side of the changes.

In the documentary they reference this article, “The Year without Toilet Paper,” from The New York Times, and I think it was an eye-opening experience to see Colin go through the process of becoming this big story and having dozens of new networks, television shows, and radio shows contact him to talk about his family’s experiment. They talk about a lot of backlash and all the haterade that bloggers and writers had on Colin. Did Colin have motives behind this stunt? Yes. Did he want to see more books? Yes. Is he a self-promoter and self-proclaimer? Yes. But at the end of the day, are all those things bad? Did people start thinking about how much garbage they produce? Yes. Did people start talking about our consumption issues? Yes. Did people know what composting is? Yes. Do I think Colin had more of a positive influence than a negative one? Yes.

After watching this documentary, I am going to implement a completely plastic free/as waste-free as possible rule when it comes to buying food. Colin and Michelle spend a lot of time in the Union Square Green Market (which happens to be conveniently located in front of my residence hall) and explain to the vendors that they can not purchase individually wrapped goods or having things wrapped up in paper. Instead, they bring their own bags and cloth to wrap things in. I never realized how much waste goes to putting all our groceries in plastic bags, boxes and containers. I also wonder how much we are spending on each product on just the packaging alone.

Another cool thing about this documentary is how NYU is everywhere in this film. I see Carlyle, Kimmel, Bobst, Washington Square Park, and they live close to Rubin Hall. Colin even speaks at an NYU event and my friend Stephanie is in the scene! Even though I like the the topic of this film, it just made it even better to see my school and basically things I walk by everyday in this documentary. It made things very real, but at the same time very surreal, because this was all happening while I was a Freshman/Sophomore.

The biggest take away I conclude from this documentary is Colin’s quote on the purpose of life: “Doing more good than harm in the world.” And really, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that what we all strive to do? To leave the world in a better place than when we found it?

Thanks for reading and hope you have a tasty but a low impact meal today… actually make that everyday.

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

Hi readers,

I have a tasty  news bite for you today! On March 26th, ABC is going to debut Jamie Oliver’s new reality show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.” I suppose I am on a “Food Revolution kick since my last post was on the French’s food revolution.

Here is the trailer for the show:

You might recognize Jamie Oliver for his shows on Food Network for his show Jamie at Home. I’m actually really excited for this show because I think it is bringing a lot of attention to a huge issue facing America right now. It reminds me a lot of the other feel good reality shows such as NBC’s Biggest Loser, and ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition. I am really interested to see how the season pans out and how the city changes (or does not change). I think the main issue that Jamie addresses is the fact that America does not cultivate a healthy food culture. We have lost our relationship with food and the only thing we think about doing is eating it. We don’t know where it comes from, how it is prepared, who is growing it, how to cook it, or what it really looks like. I am really encouraged that this food epidemic is hitting the big times on national television and I hope the keep a sense of urgency on the show because this is not a fictional story- this is something we need to deal with today.

Jamie Oliver is also the 2010 winner of the TED Prize. His wish: “I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”

Here is the video to his award speech:

If you want to get involved, I suggest that you sign his online petition here. It literally takes less than 30 seconds and he plans to go to the White House and present the petition to the President Obama and the First Lady (yeah Michelle!) to show how many Americans care about the obesity problem in America.

I sent the Ted Prize video out to my Urban Garden group in my social entrepreneurship class because we are planning on starting a garden up in Queens. We are calling our group “Community Seeds” and we want to teach members of the community how to grow their own food and also how to make it into a business. We are still in the beginning stages of the process, we have our space and our budget set up. Now we need to purchase gardening supplies and our outreach to the community. Instead of my vlog strictly about my blog, I am going to vlog about the “Community Seeds” adventure and how we are progressing- so get excited to watch those videos soon!

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think about this new reality show coming soon!


Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant

The Meatrix
February 15, 2010, 5:17 PM
Filed under: Media Bites | Tags: , , , , ,

Hi readers,

Happy President’s day!

Just finished watching Media that Matters: Good Food. It basically is a compilation of 16 short documentaries/films surrounding around food and food issues. You can actually go to the website and watch all the short films there. On of the films is called The Meatrix (a parody off of the Matrix) and I’ve heard about it from the Eat Well Guide, and was excited to get a chance to watch it.

Here are clips of The Meatrix! It is really entertaining and informative about the meat industry and how you can make changes in your consumer behavior to make a make a difference. I am reminded of my AP US History reading, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair whenever I read/see anything related to the meat industry.


Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant

Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution – Film Review

Hi readers,

As you may or may not have noticed, I am an avid documentary watcher. I LOVE documentaries. A few of my favorite are Helvetica, Iraq in FragmentsFood, Inc., and Black Gold. Now I have a new documentary to add to the list- Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution by Jean-Paul Jaud. My cousin Jinah would be proud to know that the film is made entirely in French and it is about a small village in France, named Barjac, where the mayor mandates an all-organic menu for the lunch program in the local (private) school. They serve 200-220 meals a day and the film focuses on different the stakeholders such as the farmers, parents, kids, and health care advocates.

I don’t think I can count how many times I’ve heard how French cuisine is the best cuisine in the world, or that there is nothing better then a French meal. Julia Child became famous for making traditional French cooking accessible to the modern American wife/mom. I did not grow up eating any French food, went to France once in my life, and have only seen beef bourguingnon from watching Ina Garten on the Food Network. But what I liked about this film was how even the French has lost touched with eating and enjoying the right food and that America is not the only country dying from an eating disorder.

In parts of the film, government officials try to explain the increasing numbers of people (including children) that die from cancer and how the food industry and pesticides play a role in that fact. What I found alarming was how one government official said that the current generation will not be as healthy as their parents. Being 20 now, a lot of the times I do feel like I think I’m invincible and that of course I am healthier than my parents, but at the same time I can’t run 5 miles straight (I used to when I was in Cross Country!) like my dad can or work out three times a week like my mom. And our health is obviously linked to our environment and what we put into it. After the mayor mandated that the kitchen to go all-organic, the children noticed that the food tasted better and that is was of higher quality than before. They even started a small garden in their school and all the students collectively took care of the produce together and were served the fruits of their labor together in the cafeteria. I can’t imagine the satisfaction it must feel like to be 7-10 years old and being able to enjoy food that you grew with your own two hands. It would be my dream to see other nursery schools, hospitals, and regular schools (not just private!) to look towards small-scale agriculture to serve the younger generation.

I’ve written before about the issues of prices and how organic food is more expensive than buying the everyday food items in the grocery store, but at the same time we have to look at the collective costs eating this way is causing us. The film makes it very clear that you can not put a price on health and you can not put a price on our future. If you think about all the hidden costs that goes into mass production of food you will realize that the organic food ends up cheaper. How? Well, as more and more farmers spray their fields with toxic chemicals, the yield on their farm goes higher, but as every farmer is doing that believing they will get more bang for their buck, the prices decline rapidly as their is much more supply than demand. If this was a traditional business, the head honchos of a company can cut costs by firing employees, closing down factories, etc. But a farmer can not lay off his land, instead he needs to squeeze out even more produce in order to stay afloat – but then the price declines even more. Then farmers demand the government to give them compensation on their losses and hello guys, that money comes out of our taxes! It really is not a question of finances, but a question of seeing how these issues are real, but at the same time they are preventable by controlling what you eat.

As I was reading The New York Times today, there was an article called “A Federal Effort to Push Junk Food Out of Schools” that talks about how the Obama Administration is pushing for legislation on banning candy and sugary beverages in schools. I love how Michelle Obama is talking about childhood obesity being a priority and she wants to take initiative in addressing this problem but at the same time, there was a 7-11 down the block from my high school, and if I craved a Twix bar or Spicy Hot Cheetos, my open-campus allowed me to get it if I wanted it. I see how schools not supporting such poor eating habits, I still feel like nutrition and eating well in general needs to a part of a school’s curriculum if you want to see any improvements in younger people’s health. Not to dog down on this federal push, but I think Michelle’s approach to the White House Garden is more applicable for students to be involved in their food. I think changing the Coke cans to Aquafina bottles is not the same as teaching kids how to be accountable for a communal garden like they do in Barjac. They should learn about how worms are necessary in order for soil to grab the nutrients it needs or what a zucchini flower looks like. I understand that Barjac was a small school and I can’t tell you how to apply that same curriculum to larger American public schools but I do think it has to come from the parents. Parents really need to advocate for a holistic curriculum at schools and until there is one, parents should do holistic teachings at home. I also think it is quite a rarity for a mayor to mandate such a law. As he says in the film, telling parents they are killing their children does not win him any votes, and telling farmers they are killing the country does not win him any votes either, but he says it is a conversation necessary to have. He would definitely have my vote if I lived in that lovely French town.

This also reminds me of another article that I read about non-GMO certification, but I think I will wait to talk about that when I do my film review on The Future of Food. Anyways, people have been asking me about what I did in Turkey so here is my little blurb:

When I was in Turkey, I studied Muslim and Islamic identity through the Halal diet and I came to realize that my research was completely invalid because in Turkey everything is Halal. I assumed that they had all the different choices we had and certification on our groceries like things being Kosher, Organic, Fair-Trade, Free-Range, Pasture-fed, etc. But it was the status quo for things to be Halal since it is such a integral part of their culture and they don’t even need to think about the certification of their food being “lawful” to eat. Needless to say my paper did not hold a lot of substance, but it made me really wish for it to be completely normal for things to be made organically, naturally, and sustainably and that we didn’t need any certification for it at all.

Hope you had your fill of Food for Thought and see? I told you I would be blogging more regularly now. :)


Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant

Food Rules to Follow

Hi readers,

I feel like I have been such a terrible blogger, and I know I owe you all at least 4 posts (don’t worry, they are on their way!).

Anyways, before my Computer Programming class on Wednesday, I was reading the New York Times on my phone and I ran into this post about Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules. I thought I would share it with you all and tell you how excited I am to purchase the book! On side note, I feel like Michael Pollan is everywhere. First he was on Oprah and he just filmed for the Daily Show– but hey, if it gets the message out, all the more power to him.

Click here for the original article.

February 2, 2010
Personal Health
Rules Worth Following, for Everyone’s Sake

In the more than four decades that I have been reading and writing about the findings of nutritional science, I have come across nothing more intelligent, sensible and simple to follow than the 64 principles outlined in a slender, easy-to-digest new book called “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,” by Michael Pollan.

Mr. Pollan is not a biochemist or a nutritionist but rather a professor of science journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. You may recognize his name as the author of two highly praised books on food and nutrition, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” (All three books are from Penguin.)

If you don’t have the time and inclination to read the first two, you can do yourself and your family no better service than to invest $11 and one hour to whip through the 139 pages of “Food Rules” and adapt its guidance to your shopping and eating habits.

Chances are you’ve heard any number of the rules before. I, for one, have been writing and speaking about them for decades. And chances are you’ve yet to put most of them into practice. But I suspect that this little book, which is based on research but not annotated, can do more than the most authoritative text to get you motivated to make some important, lasting, health-promoting and planet-saving changes in what and how you eat.

Reasons to Change

Two fundamental facts provide the impetus Americans and other Westerners need to make dietary changes. One, as Mr. Pollan points out, is that populations who rely on the so-called Western diet — lots of processed foods, meat, added fat, sugar and refined grains — “invariably suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.” Indeed, 4 of the top 10 killers of Americans are linked to this diet.

As people in Asian and Mediterranean countries have become more Westernized (affluent, citified and exposed to the fast foods exported from the United States), they have become increasingly prone to the same afflictions.

The second fact is that people who consume traditional diets, free of the ersatz foods that line our supermarket shelves, experience these diseases at much lower rates. And those who, for reasons of ill health or dietary philosophy, have abandoned Western eating habits often experience a rapid and significant improvement in their health indicators.

I will add a third reason: our economy cannot afford to continue to patch up the millions of people who each year develop a diet-related ailment, and our planetary resources simply cannot sustain our eating style and continue to support its ever-growing population.

In his last book, Mr. Pollan summarized his approach in just seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The new book provides the practical steps, starting with advice to avoid “processed concoctions,” no matter what the label may claim (“no trans fats,” “low cholesterol,” “less sugar,” “reduced sodium,” “high in antioxidants” and so forth).

As Mr. Pollan puts it, “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”

Do you already avoid products made with high-fructose corn syrup? Good, but keep in mind, sugar is sugar, and if it is being added to a food that is not normally sweetened, avoid it as well. Note, too, that refined flour is hardly different from sugar once it gets into the body.

Also avoid foods advertised on television, imitation foods and food products that make health claims. No natural food is simply a collection of nutrients, and a processed food stripped of its natural goodness to which nutrients are then added is no bargain for your body.

Those who sell the most healthful foods — vegetables, fruits and whole grains — rarely have a budget to support national advertising. If you shop in a supermarket (and Mr. Pollan suggests that wherever possible, you buy fresh food at farmers’ markets), shop the periphery of the store and avoid the center aisles laden with processed foods. Note, however, that now even the dairy case has been invaded by products like gunked-up yogurts.

Follow this advice, and you will have to follow another of Mr. Pollan’s rules: “Cook.”

“Cooking for yourself,” he writes, “is the only sure way to take back control of your diet from the food scientists and food processors.” Home cooking need not be arduous or very time-consuming, and you can make up time spent at the stove with time saved not visiting doctors or shopping for new clothes to accommodate an expanding girth.

Although the most wholesome eating pattern consists of three leisurely meals a day, and preferably a light meal at night, if you must have snacks, stick to fresh and dried fruits, vegetables and nuts, which are naturally loaded with healthful nutrients. I keep a dish of raisins and walnuts handy to satisfy the urge to nibble between meals. I also take them along for long car trips. Feel free to use the gas-station restroom, but never “get your fuel from the same place your car does,” Mr. Pollan writes.

Treating Treats as Treats

Perhaps the most important rules to put into effect as soon as possible are those aimed at the ever-expanding American waistline. If you eat less, you can afford to pay more for better foods, like plants grown in organically enriched soil and animals that are range-fed.

He recommends that you do all your eating at a table, not at a desk, while working, watching television or driving. If you’re not paying attention to what you’re eating, you’re likely to eat more than you realize.

But my favorite tip, one that helped me keep my weight down for decades, is a mealtime adage, “Stop eating before you’re full” — advice that has long been practiced by societies as diverse as Japan and France. (There is no French paradox, by the way: the French who stay slim eat smaller portions, leisurely meals and no snacks.)

Practice portion control and eat slowly to the point of satiation, not fullness. The food scientists Barbara J. Rolls of Penn State and Brian Wansink of Cornell, among others, have demonstrated that people eat less when served smaller portions on smaller plates. “There is nothing wrong with special occasion foods, as long as every day is not a special occasion,” Mr. Pollan writes. “Special occasion foods offer some of the great pleasures of life, so we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of them, but the sense of occasion needs to be restored.”

Here is where I can make an improvement. Ice cream has been a lifelong passion, and even though I stick to a brand lower in fat and calories than most, and limit my portion to the half-cup serving size described on the container, I indulge in this treat almost nightly. Perhaps I’ll try the so-called S policy Mr. Pollan says some people follow: “No snacks, no seconds, no sweets — except on days that begin with the letter S.”

On the topic of food books, Alyssa bought me Clean Plates NYC  for Christmas. Clean Plates NYC is a NYC restaurant guide that is both that focuses on healthy and socially conscious eating. For example you can flip through it whenever you’re craving a grass-fed steak, gourmet vegetarian dinner, organic burrito or juicy burger free of hormones and antibiotics. It doesn’t really matter is you are a carnivore, locavore, or vegan. I was very excited to see Chipotle was included in the book, because I don’t think I can live without my Vegetarian burrito with all the fixings. They also have Caravan of Dreams and other delicious places to check in NYC.

Hope you enjoyed and I promise I’ll come back to the blogging world more frequently.

Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant

Food Matters
January 8, 2010, 6:47 PM
Filed under: Media Bites | Tags: , , ,

Hi readers,

Just got into NYC this morning and am heading to Istanbul, Turkey tomorrow afternoon! Super excited but my sleep schedule is already messed up!

While waiting for my flight tomorrow, I’m going to be watching this:

Enjoy the trailer! I will write a review when I get back from Turkey. BTW, my research paper in Turkey is going to be about the Halal diet so look forward to a post about that too!

So happy school is starting up again, but will be sad that there are so many of my friends missing studying abroad! :(


Alicia Kim
Food for Thought Resident Assistant