Monday, May 17, 2010

Welcome to the Blog Cafe!

Welcome to the Blog Cafe! Hi, I'm Claudia and it is my pleasure today to host the virtual Blog Cafe. That means I get to take you to a location of my choice and pick a topic for us to chat about.

I know no better place to chat than over a cup of coffee, so I'm taking you to my favorite coffee haunt Cafe Mimosa, located in Topanga, California.

Topanga is a small mountain community in Southern California located just outside Los Angeles. It is well know for it's eccentric populace and hippie culture that is still very prevalent today. For the Joni Mitchell fans, her album Ladies of the Canyon is referring to Topanga Canyon.

Cafe Mimosa has a rustic feel and a relaxed atmosphere; pillows are scattered about and the shelves have a sampling of local artist wares which range from $250 felted handbags to small beaded trinkets and coffee mugs. It's an interesting spot for people watching too.... as lots of locals flow through here in the mornings. I'm perfectly normal, of course, but I can not vouch for the rest of them. But looking at these pictures I can't understand why I am not wearing one of my handknit Victorian lace shawls. Whatever was I thinking?

My Topic: Organic Food ~ Is it All Hype?

I typically talk about knitting here on this blog, but today I'm going to talk about another subject near and dear to my heart. Food. Studies that have found that organic produce has no health benefits over ordinary foods, see BBC and other news outlets. I was surprised by these findings. Still, I think focusing on the measurable nutrients misses the whole point of why eating eating organic foods is more healthful. One of the primary reasons that I eat organic food is that it tastes better and it has the texture nature intended. Strawberries are tender and sweet; tomatoes are juicy and firm; and potatoes have thick skins that bake up crunchy and hard. How is this more healthful you wonder? Because when your produce has great natural flavor it only requires simple cooking and/or preparation, and that reduces calories and makes meals quick to fix and delicious. You also consume more ruffage which means you are more likely to feel satisfied until your next meal. At least that seems logical to me.

It's not cheap to eat organic produce, so I'm curious to know if you think eating organic food is more healthful ~ or are the benefits all in my mind ~ and I've bought into a scam?

Edit added May 18, 2010: To see this issue from the point of view of a fourth generation "conventional" farming family, I invite you to read Hilary's comment below. She raises some interesting points and dispels some notions that make me wonder anew about organic food. For those who take it for granted that organic farming is better for us and society I think it is a perspective you might find interesting. Thank you Hilary (The Yarniad) and to all of you who have left comments!

Thank you for visiting the Blog Cafe! If you'd like to host the Blog Cafe one Monday, please email: They'll put you on the list and give you a hosting date. You can also click on this image on my sidebar to visit the latest Blog Cafe posts.

Simcha Update ~ Graduation Day

I guess he's obedient now. He's got a certificate that says so.

Until next time, be well and love well and give organic produce a try ~ and see if you can taste the difference!

P.S. The scarf I am wearing is a quick knit using a fab yarn on large needles ~ that makes for a fast and fun knit and a cool way to express your knitterly style, as you dash out for your morning coffee! Scarf Designed by Murielle Knitwear; US 13 needles; Araucania Rehue Multi (Alpaca, silk, nylon)

P.S.S. We're leaving for China on Friday so I won't be in "my space" here for a few weeks. I'll looking forward to catching up with you when I get back!


Anonymous said...

Have a lovely time in China- gorgeous textiles.

I buy organic when I can, but I mostly buy veg from the local farm shops which aren't organic. I think it is helping the local area and helping reduce the carbon footprint of my family's food.

Where animal welfare is concerned I think we have a moral duty to try to impove the condition animals are kept/raised in, by buying free range eggs for example and meat. If everyone only bought the free range meat then there would be less profit in someone crowding animals together and fattening them in a non natural way, quickly. Once we tried free range chicken with a proper flavour we didn't return to factory fattened.

hip chick said...

What a great little café. I have started eating more and more locally grown/prepared foods. More often than not they end up being organic. Of course, I live in New England so the farmers markets don't have much in the way of fresh produce yet and they will only be able to carry it for as long as the growing season is...not long. I have always thought it silly to spend twice as much for an organic egg and mix it with ordinary flour.
I find that since I have started eating more local food I am spending more but I am eating less. Plus, most of our kids are out of the house now so our dinners are often just the two of us. We eat very differently.
It's funny that you couldn't resist just a tiny bit of knitting information.

Monika said...

I think if one can afford it, one should eat organic. It's not only good for you, it's good for the environment as well. Even if the nutrients are the same as non organic food, they way they were produced is better than the usual stuff you'll get in the store. Most of the organic produce in stores around here goes to waste, because it's so expensive, so not many can afford it. Isn't that a waste?
Are you planning on going to more classes with Simcha? Were will he stay while you are in China? I wish you a great time there!

Carol said...

I prefer not to have a lot of pesticides on my food, so, yes, organic for me!
China! Wow! Have a wonderful trip!

Shayla said...

Great topic for conversation, and I like your point about flavor affecting how you cook.
I read that article and while the group who conducted the research didn't care for or against organic produce or non-organic, they did benefit from coming up with a bit of controversy. Controversy gets attention and perhaps scientists aren't always saints.

A big reason many eat organics is to avoid pesticides. The study didn't consider the effect of pesticides on health. Organic food hasn't been genetically modified and that is an area we're still not sure on the effects on human health. Lastly, the study did find more nutrition in the organic produce. Their claim was that it wasn't significant. I could be wrong, I often am, but that sounds subjective.

I will say that there is a big difference in the quality of organic produce. An organic strawberry that's traveled across the country, been exposed to gasoline fumes on the highway etc. does not taste as good as one picked from the garden that morning. In the end, like you, I prefer local organic produce for the flavor and even if it had the same nutritional value, it still tastes better so I don't see how buying it would be a scam. My grandfather who worked for pesticide companies, however would not agree ;)
Yikes! Long comment! Can't help it, you picked such an interesting topic. Love the mug from the cafe too.

Channon said...

I took a photo of Sissy's certificate too... And she has grown into being a very good girl, for the most part.

Interestingly enough, The Today Show had a bit this morning on pesticides and ADHD. They were saying organic is better for young children, if I heard correctly...

KnittySue said...

OH and ENJOY China...I can't wait to hear about it.

KnittySue said...

Thanks for the tour it sounds like a place I would like to visit. Now on Organic...yes I'm all for it. For years we had a vegetable garden (large one) and though it was alot of work NOTHING is better than fresh all natural vegetables...and I so miss that luxery, we never used pesticides.

JoLyn said...

Hi Claudia! So glad to be here with you at the Blog Cafe. And what a delightful spot--I love that oversized mug and the cute Frog Art on the wall!

Great topic today. I'm just developing my opinion about organic foods. Up until recently, I hadn't been too worried about it--the prices put me off I guess. But I heard about a study that says pesticides could be a major cause of ADHD and other things. That makes me worry--can I really wash everything off my food before we eat it? I'm wondering if I should start paying more attention to buying organic. And is buying locally grown the best way to go? Where do you buy your fruits and veggies, Claudia?

I'll be interested to see what everybody says today! Thanks for having us!

subliminalrabbit said...

lovely! i'm going to have to check that cafe out!

organic produce... yes. because this fresh-squeezed (by me) organic orange juice with my breakfast is AMAZING. because you're more likely supporting smaller-scale agriculture. because fewer chemicals in the body and in the ground and up in the air are a good thing for all of us. because. it's worth it.

jillian said...

Yay for Simcha!

I'm all for organic produce, but more for knowing what I'm not putting in my body (pesticides), than what I am. Also, I believe traditional farming methods are not sustainable. But I also realize it is a luxury to be able to make these choices. It's a shame more environmentally-sensitive, sustainable farming methods are more expensive, thereby making the produce more expensive. But it seems like organic produce is becoming more common and less expensive, especially compared to five or more years ago. So, no, I don't think it's a scam, depending on what one's goal is :)

Have a fantastic trip!

betty said...

You know, I've been a big-time fruit eater for all of my life, but I've never liked the peel of fruits. For example, I always peel apples, plums, pears, nectarines, etc. I'd peel grapes if I could! Other people use to comment that I'm peeling away good nutrients, and I'd respond that I'm also peeling away the pesticides.
One of the recent reports that I heard on the TV was that for fruits and veggies that you peel, it does not matter if you choose organic produce or not because most of the pesticide residue sits on the skin, and I felt vindicated!
That being said, I do think organically grown broccoli does taste better, and the same goes for certain other leafy veggies. And I usually try to buy organic strawberries because I think the strawberry is one those fruits that retains the highest amount of pesticide residue.
In the bay area, lots of places sell locally grown organic produce that is sometimes cheaper than conventional stuff.

Bandanamom said...

This looks like a lovely place to hang out. I've always been fascinated by Topanga so it sounds like the perfect escape from my routine today (which really consists of doctors visits and running all over heck and half of georgia)

I really don't know about the organic food thing. I love to shop at farmers' markets when I can. I love the idea of buying eggs from local chickens and not the giant chicken farms. It might be all in my head, but because I was raised in farm country, it just seems healthier to me than big corporate farms. Some of my best food memories are eating raspberries off the bush and strawberries off the plant and fresh potatoes out of the earth. I'm not sure if there's any truth to them being 'healthier' but they make me happy. So that counts for something right?

I don't always eat organic - it's just not always practical for me to do it.

But I like the idea of it being an environmentally friendly thing to purchase from local produce when I can. I think it would be nice if we would all try to grow some of our own stuff - some tomatoes or something. Currently I just have a lot of herbs growing. And I do use them. I also have a lemon tree and a pomegranite tree. Even just producing a little of your own food 'organically' feels like a nice thing.

The Clem Family said...

I think organic food is more healthy and I think it's great that you make the effort to eat it more. We usually grow a vegetable garden and I've always enjoyed the veggies out of it better than the ones you buy at the store whether they be in a can, plastic bag or even the chemically enhanced stuff from the "fresh" produce isle. If you can afford it, I think organic is the way to go.

So, I LOVE the pic of your German Shepherd!!! We used to have one named Dakota and we loved her so much. Unfortunately, a few years ago, she got out one night and got hit by a car and we had to put her down. She was a great dog and I keep trying to talk my husband into getting another one.

Mountain Thyme said...

I really do not know how to "do" this virtual blog, I will just chime in this way.

Whether or not organic food is better for you or not is just about the same .. logically.. as whether or not there is global warming. No, all the science is not in yet. But why would you NOT want to eat foods that are as pure as possible? Eh? Why would you NOT want to put less gunk and junk into the air and water? Eh?

As for me, I cannot believe that un-natural chemicals are in any way good for you. And I know the arguments about our farmers having to feed the world. That is true. And in order to do so, they must increase production.

But you are asking about me and what I think. I will go organic for potatoes and tomatoes and apples and carrots and green onions and spinach and berries. I will eat only free range chicken and drink organic soy milk.

I will conserve water and recycle everything that I can. I will make sure that when I drive to town, I have all my errands listed and in order so that I make one big trip every ten days or so instead of a few little ones in the same amount of time.

I may not save the world, but I will try to make my little space in it more healthful.

Anonymous said...

Hello nice to meet you! Love this post. I read the BBC article. I am not buying it. If you notice it says that nutritionally its just the same... but they also say they didn't do any studies on the pesticides and hormones... THAT is why I only eat organic grown veggies and fruits from local farmers. Not only does it taste better, I am not eating veggies that were sprayed, and then handled by hundreds of hands after. It's a personal choice, but I think more people need to be informed on the benefits of eating organic. :)

Elizabeth said...

Hi Claudia!
came to you via my friend Tracy in Norway.
This is an important topic.
We used to live in Morocco where all the food was lovely and fresh from the farms.
No 'food miles'.
I try to eat local food where possible

ps I love Mr.Puffy

gaylen said...

first and foremost - have a great time in China! How fun does that sound?

Second - congrats to your lovely Simcha on graduating.

and now for the long parts. No - I do not believe you have bought into hype. If the studies are only testing nutrients - I believe it's a failed study. How about hormones in meat and dairy? They aren't good for you.

Eating organic does not have to be expensive. There are several very reasonably priced options for eating local, organic and in season - all much, much better for you. check into your local CSA. We're starting this summer - I'll let you know after a bit how I feel. g

snoopydog said...

Hello there! Just come across your blog. It's lovely! Topanga sounds like just my kind of place. Have a great trip to China. I'll pop back again. Ros

Rebekah said...

Love the frog artwork.

Love Simcha's ears. They are cracking me up!

And congratulations for graduating Simcha, that is quite an accomplishment at such a young age. Will you be going to graduate school now?

Knitting Out Loud said...

I try to buy organic when I can, especially if it is locally grown produce. Yes, it tastes better. And it's better for the dirt, you know, where it grows. And it might be the pesticides which are killing off the bees. I love bees.

Oh that cafe! Lovely!

Flower said...

We buy some organic fresh food and we grow a large organic garden each summer. From that we "put-up" a vast amount of food. Much of the produce in our local grocery store comes from our area. It isn't organic...yet...but these growers are switching over. (It takes seven years for a inorganic field to be called and tested organic.)
We prefer organic!

Kate (KnitsInClass) said...

Local organic is truly the best - although, from what I have read, I understand that being certified organic can be difficult (and very costly) to the small farmer. So, when I'm at the market, I tend to look for local first and organic local is just a bonus.

We are trying to eat less meat - specifically cutting out beef - and are really trying to know where our food has come from - if the animal has had a good life (free range, pastured, anything but kept on a crowded feedlot) I not only feel better about consuming it, but it really does taste better!

Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? It really changed the way I think about food.

Enjoy your vacation! It sounds amazing -

raining sheep said...

I am sneaking away from studying to read your post! Bad me...but so worth it. I eat organic as much as is feasible...if organic is expensive in California, I am sure you can well imagine how expensive it is here in Calgary!! :) What there is quite a bit of here is organic meat and I love that. I owe you an email back, but can't do it till I finish my paper that is due :( Hug Simcha, he is growing so quickly. Can't remember when you leave for China but I think it's pretty soon. Have a fabulous time seeing all the sights. I do expect to see some photos upon your return. Hugs, double hugs.

Allie said...

Claudia that study surprises me too. I'd much rather eat organic - they do taste better to me - and of course I prefer my food without pesticides.
I love the look of that cafe, I think I'd feel totally at home. I'm a hippie at heart.
Congrats to Simcha on being a good doggie, and enjoy your trip!

At Home Mommy Knits said...

Have a fantastic trip to China!! I'm not a big fan of pesticides for me or for my kids who are still growing so we eat primarily organic.

Katherine said...

I love that Simcha is obedient but his ears aren't yet. Max is almost a year old and his ears still fall to one side or the other and I tell him, "Oh Max you are such a puppy!" Simcha is beautiful!

Organic is not a scam! Flavor alone tells me that there is a reason to buy organic. It makes sense to me that if vegetables taste better I will eat more of them and less not so healthy food.

Hilary said...

Coming from a family that has been in conventional (i.e. not organic) farming for four generations now in Calfornia's Central Valley, I have quite a bit to say about this!

Overall, I think your point is a good one -- that tastier produce requires simpler preparation, makes you want to eat more of it, etc. And that is a good thing. However, I don't think *organic* produce tastes better, I think *fresh* produce tastes better. And what you're getting at the farmer's market is probably more fresh than what you get at the supermarket and it just happens to be organic.

This is more in response to arguments that I hear in support of organic farming than what you've written here, but it is not true that organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides. Organic farmers use "naturally occurring" pesticides, which, just like with pesticides used in conventional farming, would still be harmful if consumed in large quantities. In the case of both, the use of pesticides is highly regulated in this country, and what shows up at the grocery store will have VERY little, trace amounts, the negative effects of which are greatly outweighed by the nutritional benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

What isn't regulated as much is the use of manure in organic fertilizers. Where conventional farmers are restricted under food safety regulations from such use of manure, organic farmers are not. This can show up in food and can also be bad for humans.

Also, smaller, organic farms have a larger carbon footprint than conventional farms. Organic farming requires more resources (water, fuel for tractors and transportation, etc.) and produces a lesser yield. Conventional farming, because of its higher yield, is more efficient and uses less water and other resources per acre.

I don't think organic farming is a scam -- anything that gets people to eat more healthily is fantastic! What worries me is that people are starting to think "organic = good" and "conventional = bad", when conventionally grown produce is actually what feeds most of our nation, and organic farms would not be able to do so. I also feel that there are some ideas out there about organic vs. conventional farming that are not really true, and which I hope are brought to light publicly.

All that said, your farmers market haul looks extremely yummy!

Congrats to Simcha on his graduation, and have fun in China!

Teddy Rose said...

Thant looks like a very relaxing place to have some cappuccino. My husband and I are both long time vegans and we eat mostly organic. We think it's better to skimp on other thing but what we put into our bodies is important. That said, we do dine out more than we should. Now a days it is so much easier for vegans to eat out.

t does wool said...

well,I am late to this chat...but none the less,I am here and glad for the discussion.
I would agree that "fresh" is in every way better than "organic"..I agree with Hilary...
and buying organic...doesn't always mean what you think it should mean.
interesting topic,Claudia.
Enjoy China...
and that smart!!

bekkah said...

I buy a mix of organic and conventional. Fruits/Veggies with a thick or removable skin I usually opt for conventional as (supposedly) they are found to contain the least amount pesticides.

I try to focus less though on organic and more on eating as 'close to nature as possible' (big Michael Pollan fan!).

I recently discovered that I have a gluten intolerance. Gluten can sometimes be hidden within listed ingredients, so I opt for items with very straight forward labels. This 'forces' my husband to eat well, so now when he goes out for highly PROCESSED meals...he pays for it afterwards {and not from me!}.

I believe that's confirmation enough that part of eating right is paying close attention to the processing/additives in your food...which doesn't necessarily mean they have to be 'organic'.

Such a great topic!!

Ally Johnston said...

What a great stop.. Enjoy China

marit said...

Organic/conventional- what to choose? I think the main thing is to choose locally grown vegetables/fruits/meat, because hauling it halfway around the world is not very good for the environment! We raise sheep, and use as little as possible or nearly nothing of pesticides and "artificialmanure", but that is mainly because our farm is very small and the stuff you have to buy is very expensive. But we send the sheep to the mountains to graze, and they also have access to the sea and seaweeds in fall, which flavours the meat differently from a sheep that is grazing on grass fields the whole season.

Have fun in China! My husband is working there now, 4 weeks on, 4 weeks off.

kim said...

Thank you for the virtual tour. I love Joni Mitchell, and her songs popped into my head as I was reading. Have a great trip!

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Hilary in the taste = freshness department. Most of the chicken, fruit and vegetables in my organic chain supermarket tend to taste rather bland, whereas there is a noticeable increase in flavor when I cook chicken the same night I bring it home from my conventional supermarket. I do get distressed, however, by inhumane crowding, etc of meat animals, but don't know what the answer is for large scale meat production.
Gotta love those ears of Simcha's!
Have fun in China (and knit up a storm on the plane).

Tracy said...

Hi, Claudia! So much enjoyed this with you at the Mimosa Cafe! That looks like my kind of place! ;o) We try to buy local organic as much as possible. Though it is pretty pricey, we try to see it as an investment in our better health and supporting our local community. This summer we're going to be making attempts to grow more of our own in our little veggie patch and see how that goes--very exciting! And so is your trip to China! Wishing you safe & very happy travels! Look forward to photos... And what yarn you might find in the East! :o) Such wonderful news on Simcha--hooray! Happy Days ((HUGS))