New Feature: Stuff to worry about

Rule 34 of Jenny is that if it exists, I will worry about it. So I’m starting this new feature on the blog to spotlight things I suddenly learn I need to worry about. Because if I have to worry about it, I’m damn well not going to be the only one.

In this post we are going to worry about how eating quinoa is harming people in South America. Because apparently when we eat quinoa and other things including, goddammit, asparagus which I love, the prices of these things goes way way up in their countries of origin. People in South America used to be able to get quinoa really cheap, and that was awesome for them because it has lots of protein, calcium, and fiber, and it can go in a whole bunch of different dishes.

Then America decided that was awesome for us too, and we were like, Yummy! Send us the quinoa! And now quinoa commands much higher prices, and the very poor Bolivian and Peruvian populations that have historically depended on quinoa as a cheap food staple can’t afford it any more. It costs as much as chicken now. Same problem arises with, I’m sorry but the Guardian says it’s true, asparagus and soy.

(Not sure why the Guardian is singling out vegans. Lots of people eat quinoa. I have been intending to start eating quinoa but now I won’t.)

So, okay. I do not eat that many soy products, and I have never eaten quinoa, but I do love asparagus. But now I will just have to stop buying those things. Unless I can get them at the farmers’ market, where everything is locally grown. Being a good person is hard but it is easier when you live somewhere like New York where you have easy access to a lot of choices. Also when you do not have dietary restrictions.

ETA: Y’all and also Slate.com make it sound like I do not need to worry about quinoa as much as that Guardian article said I did. Phew. But also, hmph, now I need to return to thinking about finding quinoa recipes and becoming familiar with quinoa in my cooking.

39 thoughts on “New Feature: Stuff to worry about

  1. Not helpful on the quinoa front or the soy front, but once I made the switch to local/in-season asparagus from farmers’ markets, grocery store/out-of-season asparagus seemed so sad and lacking anyway that it got added to the list of “things I won’t buy unless they’re local and in season” (also on that list: tomatoes, unless they’re canned; corn on the cob, raspberries; blackberries; blueberries). So maybe you’ll have a similar experience/you won’t actually miss it.

    • No, I know. I am trying to eat seasonal food more reliably. It now occurs that I have to go to the farmers’ market every Saturday anyway, to dump out our compost, so it’ll be very convenient for me to get more local produce.

  2. Heather’s got a good point. Local produce generally tastes so much better, and though the selection isn’t consistent, it would be a way for you to eat and not worry. I don’t know about quinoa, not sure if the UK eats much of it, but there is a drive to eat healthier food across the board that’s resulted in lots of packets of seeds and grains we didn’t use to eat. And not all of it comes from this country either.

  3. I assure you that your native land produces tons and tons of soy. Your uncles used to farm it! Maybe if you just eat asparagus in season (whatever the asparagus season is), you can do so without guilt.

    • Mumsy I KNOW THAT. I am just saying that if I can’t figure out where my specific soy products come from, they may well have come from bad places, and then I need to worry about that. I just mean I need to worry about eating locally more better.

  4. Maybe you don’t need to worry so much. Here’s another perspective on the quinoa issue, from filmmakers producing a documentary about quinoa in Bolivia. They don’t think quinoa production is harming farmers in Bolivia. Their evidence is anecdotal, but sounds more in touch with the on-the-ground situation. They say farmers who make money growing quinoa choose to eat other foods because they’re markers of a higher social standing: http://bearwitnesspictures.blogspot.com/2012/11/an-open-letter-to-npr-regarding-quinoa.html

  5. I read that article, too. It mostly seems weird that they were singling out vegans, but I guess they state their rationale when they say vegans depend on it more since it’s harder for them to get protein from other sources? Seems thin, and I’m guessing it’s mostly just a bad headline, since the article itself didn’t lean on the vegan thing.

    I have eaten, and enjoyed, quinoa for years. We don’t have any in the house at the moment, though, and I’m not sure when/if we’ll buy it again. Which sucks, because my diet is severely grain-limited, since I’ve got celiac and am thus gluten-free. I liked having the option of quinoa.

    • Oh poor you! I think if you have dietary reasons for depending on quinoa it makes a lot more sense to use it, and other commenters appear to think that the Guardian writer was mistaken, at least partly.

      Can I ask what gluten-free flour you use? My roommate is also gluten-intolerant, and I always want to find the best kind of flour so I can make her a baked good.

      • I generally use a blend of flours, actually. My go-to is Pamela’s pancake and baking mix, so not actually a flour, per se. It makes yummmmy pancakes, and muffins, and other stuff. I think Pamela’s bread mix is a good flour blend (not just for bread). Otherwise, we usually end up with a mix of rice flour(s), potato starch, corn starch, and maybe tapioca starch. But we’ve tried lots of different stuff.

  6. The Guardian is English, yes? I ask because I went to college in the rural Midwest, surrounded by farm country that I drove through every time I went home & came back, and soy and corn was all I saw. The Midwest produces so much soy that my econ professors always used soy & corn in their examples of products! Or is the soy problem a subsidy thing, a la sugar or cotton? Ohhh, or maybe that soy goes to feed animals being raised for meat? Hmmmm. (Speaking of which, are you a vegetarian? Or infrequent meat eater? Just curious because of all the issues, environmental and ethical, around our current meat industry.)

    As for quinoa, I ate it a couple times when I was gluten intolerant (God those were horrendous years), but then I saw something about this issue and decided not to eat it anymore. I would imagine it’s more popular w the GF crowd than the vegan one, so naught Guardian!

    I only eat farmer’s market asparagus for the same reason as Heather! My brief time in Northern California, with 3 farmer’s markets a week, opened my eyes to the magic of local, in season produce. ;)

    • My roommate keeps joining CSAs and it is great for me. I get all kinds of local in-season produce, including very deliciously, eggs.

      I am less worried about soy than quinoa, although still a bit worried about soy. I just need to be vigilant about, like, making sure my soy is coming from appropriate sources.

  7. Oh dear! I hope Nathalie is correct because I am a total quinoa addict! I especially like that practically no one who doesn’t eat it knows how to pronounce it, making it seem like A Secret Society.

    • Hahahahaha, totally. I learned how to pronounce it only within the last few years (because New York loves quinoa), and yeah, I am sort of hoping life will offer me more opportunities to say it correctly.

  8. My mom sent me that article about BAD QUINOA EATERS and then I found the article Nathalie posted and now I’m just like “meh.” (I’m kinda more willing to believe the people who actually spent time with the quinoa farmers and, y’know, asked them stuff.) I tried quinoa once and it was VERY FILLING and also kinda weird? I’d try it again, I think.

    I like this feature! It gets people talking. Plus I think when you talk about your worries they tend to get de-worryfied, which is good.

    • I agree with that. Or also there is the possibility that people will say more related things I need to worry about, but I guess I’m willing to risk that? For the possibility that I won’t have to worry about quinoa anymore?

      (The second installment of this feature is much more worrisome than this quinoa business, so be prepared.)

    • Oh, Andi, no! Other people in the comments say that we don’t need to worry about it after all. You are the last person whose list of worries I would ever want to add to.

  9. I worry about a lot of things too, but I have never even tried quinoa, and I dislike asparagus. I do eat a lot of soy though, so I am worried about that, but I suspect that it’s not one of the foremost worries on my mind these days.

  10. This feature adds another piece into the puzzle that is “getting to know Jenny from a distance”. This might even be a corner piece. I love it.

    • Yeah, it’s something I need to be better about. I could do it with a minimal amount of trouble if I were a better cook and could think of creative things to do with a wide variety of foods. But I currently am not that sort of cook.

  11. This makes me glad I don’t really like quinoa. I tried it once to be all healthy and stuff and came to the conclusion that if the only way I liked it was when it was drowning in spaghetti sauce that probably meant I didn’t really like it. This really stinks for South Americans. Why don’t we just grow it here?

  12. Dear Jenny, I recommend two books to you – Bad Science by Ben Goldacre and Flat Earth News by Nick Davies. Both are angry and funny books debunking the accuracy of pretty much everything we hear about in the media, particularly anything that involves facts. The only worry about this is that you might end up worrying a lot about the media, which is a very legitimate worry, although not something we can do anything about. I really hear you when it comes to worrying – I know how that goes. Hugs.

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