January 15, 2013
It’s clichéd but true—New Year’s is a time of reflection and commitment, or re-commitment if our path has strayed from where we’d like to be. My personal dedication to “Conscious Eating,” took a deeper turn in 2012 as I’ve been working with a healer who temporarily took me off certain foods in order to more deeply heal various systems in my body. The hardest withdrawal for me by far has been to eliminate ALL fruit, vinegars and sweeteners—honey, maple syrup, cane sugar, palm sugar—truly ALL sweeteners. I have not been perfect, but even going weeks at a time without eating these foods has made a huge difference, and I’ve been surprised by how much my taste buds have re-awakened. Like salt, sugar masks the flavors in whole, natural foods. This new diet has forced me to be creative with what I call sweet; for instance, fresh snap peas were my “dessert” for a while. Artichokes also became a “sweet” for me. I’m allowed to have blueberries and blackberries now (oh joy!) and have gotten really creative with spices to see what enhances their flavor without any sugar.
Another huge benefit for me has been the elimination of cravings and more clarity of mind. Sugar is so pervasive in our diet—probably even more so than gluten. It is far from the “special treat” that it used to be in our culture not that long ago. I imagine most people in the U.S. eat sugar every day, if not all day long. It’s in everything from sweetened drinks to cereals, catsup and spaghetti sauce, snack crackers, breads—the list is endless. Take a look in your cupboards to see where sugar is hidden in your food, and give your body a break and go sugar-free for a day! I’d love to hear where your “Conscious Eating” journey is taking you this year, and I’m glad that Mary’s Gone Crackers is part of your path.
In good health,
April 11, 2012
Years ago, Julia Butterfly sat 180 feet up in the old growth redwood tree Luna, trying to get a commitment from the logging company to save that grove of redwood trees. She faced one of the worst winters in California and as she told her story she frequently (to my amazement) focused on how much love she felt from Mother Earth! She stayed in that tree for over 2 years, and succeeded in saving those trees and bringing much attention to the plight of the environment. She has been a hero of mine, especially because throughout her ordeal she was able to maintain her message of hope and love. She taught me to understand that when we take the time to notice our home and experience its beauty, we can’t help but know that we are loved. “Every day we, as a species, do so much to destroy Creation’s ability to give us life. But that Creation continues to do everything in its power to give us life anyway. And that’s true love.” (The Legacy of Luna by Julia Butterfly Hill.)
As we approach Earth Day, there are hundreds of suggestions every year as to how we can change our behavior to be more gentle on the earth: bring reusable shopping bags with you; use reusable water bottles instead of buying plastic bottles of water; eat less meat—everyone eating vegetarian or vegan just one day per week would have a huge impact on the earth; drive less; buy products with less packaging; recycle; use environmentally friendly lighting. The list goes on. We all do what we can and I suspect many of us feel sad that we are not able to do more.
My wish for you this year and going forward is that you add something loving and positive onto your list; something that will re-establish your relationship with Mother Earth. Take a few minutes every day to sit outside, put your feet on the earth, and breathe in deeply. Even for just 10 minutes, when we connect to the earth and appreciate her beauty and bounty we are healing ourselves and the earth. Our misguided and destructive habits didn’t get established overnight. They have come over hundreds of years and many generations of being disconnected: from our communities, from our bodies, from our history, from our ancestors and ultimately, from the earth. Bringing back a connection, even in small ways, is the path back to our true nature, which is one of relationship and love. We don’t have to know all the answers to the mess we are finding ourselves in on this planet, but as we lead with our hearts and connect with gratitude and love, our next steps will be revealed. What a shift in the planet it would be for everyone to take this time each day to express gratitude and feel what Julia calls “true love.”
Let me know what shifts take place in YOUR life as you incorporate this little action into your day.
Happy Earth Day fellow earthlings!
March 19, 2012
As the issue of labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food heats up in this country, it’s interesting to get some perspective on genetically modified crops in the rest of the world. As this map shows, the U.S. is by far the largest producer of genetically modified crops. For me, this means our government has decided to allow us to be guinea pigs while Monsanto, a multinational biotechnology corporation, makes a lot of money experimenting with its seeds. It’s important to note that the U.S. government and the FDA do not require anything that is genetically modified to be identified on ingredient lists. Genetically modified foods and products are in widespread use and distribution throughout the U.S.
Many countries including Egypt, China, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, Spain, France and Italy have banned GMOs altogether, and the following states and regions in the U.S. have made strides to regulate GMOs in food:
· Maryland has banned genetically engineered (GE) fish
· North Dakota and Montana have filed bans on GE wheat
· The Municipalities of Burlington, Vermont declared a moratorium on GE food
· Boulder, Colorado bans GE crops
· City and County of San Francisco urged the federal government to ban GE food
And if you want to stay away from genetically modified food, be sure to buy organic versions of crops that are most commonly genetically modified in the U.S.: soy, cotton, canola, corn, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini and yellow squash, and Quest brand tobacco.
As always, awareness changes behavior, which is why it’s so important to require labeling for genetically engineered food. Mary’s Gone Crackers is all about CONSCIOUS EATING!
Thank you for reading!
Founder, Mary’s Gone Crackers
February 16, 2012
The topic of veganism has gained popularity and even celebrity status in recent years, but what does it really mean? To some people it’s a more healthy way to eat, while for others it can be a political statement. To our team, creating delicious vegan foods is something we’ve always been committed to for a variety of compelling reasons. My main concerns when creating love Cookies was that free-range, organic chicken eggs and butter from well-cared-for, grass-fed cows are both expensive and hard to source. The certified organic eggs and butter that are available rarely meet the quality standards I would choose to eat for myself and my family, so I wouldn’t dream of putting them into Mary’s Gone Crackers products. It made better sense to me to find other ingredients to use that are healthy, nourishing and delicious. Eliminating eggs and butter from our cookie formulas (our crackers and pretzels are already vegan by design) also makes them accessible for a wider range of people to enjoy.
While I personally am not a vegan, I feel there is much to be learned from the vegan diet that can be happily incorporated into a healthier way of eating. There are a plethora of studies that show the benefits of a plant based diet—antioxidants, fiber, minerals and other phytonutrients are all abundant and essential to health and longevity. The more we can incorporate organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds into our daily fare, the easier it is to let go of, or at least eat less of, the foods that are less healthful for us. I once heard a teacher tell me, “It doesn’t work to go into a dark room and try to get rid of the darkness; you must bring in the light!” So too, it doesn’t work just to deprive yourself of certain foods—first try bringing in more of the better-for-you foods and watch what happens!
Thank you for reading!
Founder, Mary’s Gone Crackers
November 13, 2011
On Halloween I was at the new Wegmans store in Northborough, MA near Boston, giving away samples of all of the Mary’s Gone Crackers products that they carry. Luckily, the power was back on in the store after relying on back up generators for a few days after the huge dumping of snow in the area. There were lots of people hanging out in the store because many schools and offices were closed. It was a lot of fun and a huge and beautiful store!
As we were getting ready to go, I walked through their amazing gluten free section one last time and saw a mom holding her young toddler, reading a label on a gluten free item. I asked her if she knew about our products and she said yes, but their family was allergic to sesame as well as gluten and dairy. She assumed that because our crackers and Sticks & Twigs had sesame, that our cookies would be contaminated with sesame as well. What an awakening! OUR COOKIES ARE MADE ON THEIR OWN TRAYS AND PACKAGED ON A SEPARATE CONVEYOR BELT, SO THERE IS NO SESAME OR SOY (TAMARI) CONTAMINATION BETWEEN THE CATEGORIES OF FOOD THAT WE MAKE. We produce them that way because of the tamari in the crackers and Sticks and didn’t want to have to put soy on all the cookie boxes as well. But somehow it hadn’t occurred to me that we should be letting people know about the lack of sesame contamination in our cookies! Thank you to the harried mom in Wegmans who woke me up!
To repeat: There is no cross-contamination between our crackers/pretzels and our cookies!!! So anyone worried about ingredients in our crackers and Sticks that may be an issue, you may eat our cookies with no fear! What is listed on our cookie ingredients is what you get–no surprises!
October 2, 2011
I met Jeffrey Smith several years ago after I heard him speak about GMO food (genetically modified organisms, also referred to as Genetically Engineered.) He wrote Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette all about the horrors of the genetic engineering that is going on, using the US population as guinea pigs.
I recently attended the American Dietetic Association’s annual conference, as an exhibitor and was shocked to see a booth there by Monsanto. (They were handing out soy lip balm—of course the soy used in the manufacturing of that lip balm was genetically engineered by them!) Two of the ADA board members came by our booth to ask if there was any feedback we wanted to give the association and both times I said that I was stunned to see Monsanto at a conference for Registered Dieticians, and that I thought it was extremely inappropriate. Never mind that Coca Cola, Nestle, Hershey and other huge corporations also had booths there and are hardly bastions of nutritional health. But Monsanto crossed a line for me. The first woman smiled and said she would pass that along to the board. The second woman asked why I thought it was inappropriate for Monsanto to be there. For a second, I thought she was kidding, but when I looked at her face I realized she really didn’t understand the problems with GMO food. I explained that I thought genetically altered “food” had no place in anyone’s diet and an organization such as the ADA, who is promoting health through good nutrition (www.eatright.org) should certainly be promoting what’s best for our environment and our bodies—organically grown crops.
Later I had a chance to discuss these encounters with an activist RD who explained that traditional nutritional education teaches that a calorie is a calorie and they really don’t understand the difference, or even see that there is any difference, between organic, GMO, industrial farming, etc. Of course, it doesn’t help that all these big companies spend huge dollars supporting the ADA, which makes it even harder for them to learn the truth. How disturbing and sad. All these thousands of people (mostly women) who are on the front lines of educating people how to eat and they aren’t warning people of the dangers of the food that has contaminated our planet and that is going UNLABELED in our food supply.
This month is non-GMO month and there is a groundswell going on that is very exciting. Check out Jeffrey’s organization, the Institute for Responsible Technology www.responsibletechnology.org and www.right2knowmarch.com. Watch the powerful and disturbing video with Robyn O’Brien who started an organization called Mom’s for Safe Food http://momsforsafefood.net. Stay away from soy, corn and canola oil grown in the US as they are genetically engineered (unless certified organic.) Educate yourselves and demand that we get the GMO ingredients labeled on our food, so we at least have a choice about what we put in our bodies. Most European countries don’t allow GMO crops grown there. Our FDA has decided that there is no difference and has allowed Monsanto free reign in our fields. Lots of people are fighting this and are winning (see www.centerforfoodsafety.org.)
This is what CONSCIOUS EATING is all about!
August 25, 2011
I recently attended a 3 day conference sponsored by the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council which took place at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in St. Helena, CA—in the beautiful Napa Valley wine country. The CIA is housed in what used to be Christian Brothers winery—a huge old stone complex that has been turned into a culinary school, a store and a restaurant. The conference was to educate us on the culinary and nutritional benefits of using dry peas, lentils and chickpeas (or their flours) in our products. I think I was invited because we already use yellow split pea flour in our cookies. There were representatives from General Mills, Frito-Lay, Archer Daniels Midland, Mars Foodservice as well as product developers and researchers from smaller companies and ingredient suppliers. We saw well known chefs cook and bake with these pulses and their flours and then we also had lots of hands-on experiences in the amazing kitchens. And of course, we ate a lot!
We all had to wear chef toques and white coats in the kitchens. My first assignment was to make gluten free crackers (I’m not kidding! No one knew who I was) using corn flour and starch, lentil flour and various seeds and seasonings. Everything was pre-weighed and measured for us so it was just a matter of mixing and rolling, cutting and baking. It was a lot of fun to be in these huge institutional kitchens with every possible tool available to us. For instance, these crackers were supposed to be rolled to a millimeter thick so one of the chefs took our dough that we had rolled between two sheets of parchment paper and put it in the “sheeter” which was like a giant pasta machine. It was bigger than a large dining room table and took the dough, paper and all, and rolled it to the thickness that you set it on. Since the seeds were thicker than a millimeter, we couldn’t get it down that low, but almost. Once they were rolled out I pulled off the top piece of paper and cut them with a pizza cutter, put them on a pan and in the oven. They turned out pretty good—the texture was nice but I would have added more flavoring.
Another of my tasks later on was to bake a gluten free pound cake that had pea flour as well as the typical rice, tapioca, and potato flours. Everything again was weighed and measured and marked ahead of time. Luckily, my partner and I were both familiar with making cakes and when we noticed a BOWL of baking powder we knew something was wrong. Somehow a tablespoon had turned into a couple of cups!! The cakes turned out really well, but then when you use a ton of butter, eggs and sugar you really can’t go wrong no matter what flours you use.
It was interesting to see very formally trained chefs and Master Bakers try to make gluten free baked goods. We made gluten free biscuits, cake donuts, cookies, crackers, cakes and bread. The flour bases they used were various configurations of white rice, brown rice, tapioca, potato starch and then soy, lentil, pea or chickpea flour. Texturally the products turned out well (except the bread) but there was very little flavor. I was so excited to see one group making the gluten free donuts. They looked good but I thought they were very bland. It makes me want to take their recipe and work on it to get it to taste better. There are so many healthful and flavorful ingredients that they could have used to give everything more nutrition and more flavor. It seems that when you are more formally trained, it’s harder to think outside the box. They are used to using all-purpose flour for their baking so they turn to very white, refined gluten free ingredients to replace that.
I learned the most from a couple of the famous TV and restaurant chefs who love food, flavors and textures and know how to talk about it in poetic ways. It’s one thing to be expert in food preparation but it takes a whole other skill to be able to talk about it all in an entertaining (and sometimes hysterically funny) way while demonstrating your cooking skills. On a foundation of discipline and experience, play, experimentation and pleasure were what made them excel and I identified with that philosophy the most. I hope that comes through in our food and in our company!
April 8, 2011
We’re building a new website and I get to be in charge of some of the copy that will be going on it. The section called “Why Organic” is taking me a while to write. One realization I had while I was doing the research for that section is that, as we know, in the history of our species and our relationship to agriculture, we’ve always farmed “organically” because there was never a choice. Indigenous people learned to grow food with nature—following what they saw happening around them; allowing nature to be their teacher. Until fossil fuels, chemical warfare, and industrialization, we’ve always done it that way. Now that we’ve established an industrialized, chemicalized “food” system (I put food in quotes because so much of what we eat I would not consider food) we have a choice about how we want to relate to food, agriculture, our earth. Having a choice means we have to look at what the options really are and be CONSCIOUS of the consequences of what we choose. We’re in a different paradigm than our ancestors—we are doing things very differently than what’s been done before. It means we have to question things in ways our species hasn’t had to. We can’t just trust our elders, or what’s been done before—it’s not that people are purposely trying to mislead us (although in some cases, when it comes to quick profit, I think we are being lied to;) it’s that people don’t know what they know and don’t know anymore. There’s now a generation of people who only know about food from this new, industrialized paradigm. They don’t know what they don’t know.
I have learned not to idealize any culture or time period, but it seems that indigenous cultures do have a connection to nature and the earth and an understanding of our place in it. There is an acceptance of mystery, vulnerability, and limitation. Humility. As we have relied more and more on our heads and our intellect, and revered that aspect of our knowledge base, we have lost the connection to our hearts which is the part of us that knows about what it means to be human. Our hearts teach us of vulnerability, compassion, and connection. It’s what keeps us in our bodies, reminding us that we are just one of many species on this planet, and not necessarily the smartest ones. Supposedly, we are distinguished by the fact that we have an awareness of self, can make choices, have “free will.” That freedom comes with a lot of responsibility, as freedom generally does. It would be very mature and wise of us to recognize the limits of the head and build in some balance with the heart. The “precautionary principle” seems to include that balance somewhat (“When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” Google for more details.) It’s at least acknowledging that we may not know the full outcome of something even when we think that we do. We are just beginning to learn about the full outcome of some of the choices we have made regarding “conventional” farming. We have displayed much arrogance as we mess with nature, change the DNA of plants (GMOs), try to control a complex system by killing what we have determined to be “pests” without understanding (or caring?) about the consequences. Ugh.
So you can see where my mind goes when I think about writing about why Mary’s Gone Crackers passionately chooses to use certified organic ingredients. It was a “no brainer” for me that we would only use organic ingredients; maybe I should say it was both a brain and heart choice.
March 15, 2011
A colleague forwarded an article in the Wall Street Journal that appeared today, “Clues to Gluten Sensitivity.” I’m excited that there is more focus now on gluten sensitivity as well as celiac disease. I’ve heard of many people who tested negative for celiac disease but when they finally eliminated gluten from their diet, all of their nagging symptoms went away. So many people are told that gluten isn’t an issue for them because of either false negatives on the tests or this category of gluten sensitivity that few seem to be aware of. (See Healthier Without Wheat by Dr. Stephen Wangen.)
Reading the comments brought even more interesting information. Several people connected the unexplained increase in both CD and allergies with an increase in the use of genetically modified foods (GMOs.) I had never made that connection before, although when I’ve spoken with Jeffrey Smith (Seeds of Deception) he says that since there has been so little testing done on all the GM food, it’s really unknown what the impact is on all of us.
What really interested me even MORE, was the article suggested by one of the comments. It appeared in 2005, also in the Wall Street Journal, but I never saw it: “Illness of the intestines gets late notice in U.S.” In it, there is a discussion of how “blind spots” can develop in the US medical system” based on two apparent factors: 1. No drugs or surgical procedures are used to treat the disease, so there is less interest and less funding; 2. The “we didn’t discover it first so it can’t be valid” mentality that’s part of American culture. The 3 most prominent physicians in the US that have been making a significant impact in both educating the public and spearheading research were all trained outside of the US—namely Italy, Ireland, and Australia! I’ve certainly known that Europe and Australia are way ahead of us in their awareness of celiac disease, and I found this article helpful in its discussion and history of the disease.
Dr. Peter Green (the Australian who heads the Columbia University Celiac Disease Center) notes that the average length of time before a US celiac is diagnosed is 11 years! In my case it was closer to 40. I have often joked that I’ve been like Moses, wandering in the desert for 40 years. But at least I found the Promised Land in my lifetime!