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COLUMN: Cold weather means more food on the table

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Ah! Crisp mornings have arrived. Each fall, I start the great closet wash. Warm clothes that have been hanging in the closet for months, are systematically washed to be ready for the winter season. I only have one load left, the long underwear.
I believe there are two camps of people in this world, those who would rather be cold than hot and those, like me, who would prefer hot over cold. Consequently, I have enough layers to dress up as the Mr. Michelin Man all winter.
Cold weather has all kinds of effects on our body. The primary effect is that it causes us to burn more calories to stay warm. Those on diets cheer and the rest of us start shoveling it in. Casseroles and chili replace salads and lite suppers. Food becomes another layer of protection against the cold.
I went to the grocery the other day and was stopped by an entrance display of apples. Big, gorgeous looking honeycrisp apples. Honeycrisp are my favorite. I was startled by the size. I’ve never seen them that big, so I bought one. I checked the plu code sticker and saw that it was made in the United States. Whew.
I couldn’t remember what numbers on the code indicated Genetically Modified (GM), so after I got home I looked it up. Well, that started several hours worth of research. It seems that the old number 8, which initially indicated GM, is no longer used. In fact it was used so briefly, it’s now thought of as an urban myth. Producers thought that it would “limit” sales if people knew, so they quit.
The organic industry uses five digits (not a total of four like conventional produce) on their code stickers. Of course, anyone selling organic puts a big sign up and charges you more, so you don’t have to bother finding the little sticker. I wish the FDA required producers to label GM, but there are numerous court cases across the country keeping that from happening.
All the countries of the European Union, and Japan have not allowed GM foods to enter their systems. They are conducting years of research on the safety of GM foods before they allow GM plants to enter their food chains. One example they cite is the use of DDT.
DDT was used to protect crops throughout the world for years, only to later find that it was harmful to humans and it was banned. I like food. That’s why I grow mine. I like to think what I eat is pretty good for me. Foods that are not so healthy for me, I eat in moderation.
It takes some effort to eat healthy. You’re always looking at the labels and trying to figure out what they mean. Even if the label can be easily read, you may not know what ingredients are GM. Most corn and soy products grown in the US are GM. Find a label listing one of those ingredients (like corn syrup or soy lecithin) and you’ve got a GM product.
I’ve never been a fan of GM, but I justify eating some foods, since I don’t eat much of them. I’ve recently had a change of heart. I know, we’ve been bombarded with warnings, reports and recalls and it’s become so hard to be “in the know” we just push it out of our minds.
I’ve been listening to a book that caused the change of heart. It’s called A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson and it is incredible. Once you get past the physics part, it’s really entertaining and understandable. His purpose is to explain to us “normal” folks the science of nature and human knowledge. I highly recommend it.
Since we’re entering the cold months and food, in all it’s glory and splendor, takes on a more vital role in our lives, I encourage you, my wonderful readers, to make a renewed effort. Do your homework. Get informed from all kinds of reputable sources and increase your knowledge. Then, make your choices.
We can’t trade this body in for a newer model, and even with the new health care plan, it’s expensive to maintain.
Now, get going before the snow falls. Indian Summer is over. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.