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Bad seed

30 Sep

Imagine the taste of the freshly picked tomato. Or a strawberry. Or a bean. The richness, the smell! Now imagine that having them would be illegal. I’m not kidding. I wish I was talking sci-fi, but there is a company, Monsanto that is trying to make that happen. The multinational that is producing genetically modified seed (GMO) and weed killer called Roundup.

At the moment, they are trying to ban the labelling of all genetically modified food around the world. Why? Because people are aware that it’s good for nothing and prefer to eat organic. Well, the company knows the truth as much as the people who have already had the opportunity to try it.

Watch Genetic Roulette, the documentary in which mothers, paediatricians, immunologists, dieticians, farmers and scientists share their experience. None of them have anything good to say about GMO. We learn that since GMO was introduced in the US in 1996, the stomach inflammation induced illnesses have been escalating. The inflammation may cause cancer, kidney disease, digestive disorders, diabetes, thyroid disease, allergies, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disease and/or heart attacks. Since then, there have been more children born with autism than ever.

The stories of the farmers around the world are scary too. They talk about the cattle, normally docile, but after fed GMO, start to become agitated and irritated, their stomachs blow up and then they  die.

Alarming messages came from the areas sprayed with Roundup. There was 70x increase in birth defects, miscarriages and infertility in cattle as well as people.

In 0:50:56, we see the back of the seed packaging. ‘DANGER’ is followed with the list of warnings (and the list seems not to be exhausted): ‘keep out of reach of children, do not use for food, feed or oil processing purpose, treated seed exposed on soil surface may be hazardous to birds’ – and those are the seeds that we will eventually eat! I cannot imagine that anything wholesome can grow out of them. How can we not be alarmed? I wonder if the company dares to eat their own invention.

What’s more, the philanthropist Monsanto took their expensive patented Bt cotton to one of the poorest countries in the world, India, whose income is cotton dependant. People believed that the seed would make them rich. Sawing it with their bare hands, they developed flu-like symptoms, allergies, rashes, itching. Their cattle, for centuries grazing on the crops suddenly got sick in thousands and died. Another blow was the unreliability of the seed. Instead of doubling their yielding, they lost their income but nevertheless, they were forced to pay high interest, which they could not afford. Their solution was suicide. Three quarters of all suicide cases in India in recent years were the Bt farmers.

In South Africa, they grew GMO corn for their domestic animals. They developed problems with milk production and reproduction and their life spam was shortened. Animals suffered from diarrhoea, infertility and respiratory problems. They even became cannibalistic. And they died.

Corn is a staple food in Africa. Eating GMO corn brought the upper respiratory problems, flu-like symptoms, running noses, severe headaches, and eyes of the people didn’t track.

GMO has had the same impact in Argentina.

Monsanto’s website claims that their aspirations are purely humanitarian. They are here to feed the world when in fact, all they want is to take over the food production. Shall we talk terminator seed? ”If you control the food supply, you control the people”, said Henry Kissinger. And make millions, Monsanto adds. The fairytale as sweet as honey is their commitment to sustainable agriculture, human rights, providing support to research, funding educational projects, working with governments, when the truth is that their ‘working with governments’ is lobbying to get what they want. ‘Support to research’ means buying universities so only information supporting their case can get out. The scientists who dare to speak out against are penalised, ridiculed and sacked. From 1:00:04 of the documentary we learn what happened to the scientists like Dr. Shiv Chopra, Dr. Arpad Pusztai. Dr. Andres Carrasco, Ignacio Chapela, PhD, Irina Ermakova, PhD, Terje Traavik, PhD.

They refuse us the right to information, freedom of choice, democracy, nutritional healthy food, so any talk about human rights, honesty, ethical behaviour and respect is more than hypocritical.


They claim they want to feed the world. Yes, the world is hungry, but because food is being destroyed instead of delivered. Well, there are other factors for it, too, of course. Apparently, we can’t afford to distribute it. My reasoning is: if  we stopped putting money in advertisement, lobby and war, then we would definitely be able to feed the world.

If you feel that the activities of Monsanto don’t make sense and they should be stopped, there are petitions to sign as well as the world-wide (in several cities around the UK as well) March against Monsanto on 12th October that you are welcome to join.

About the Writer: Zdena comes from Slovakia but has made Wales her second home, that is when she is not travelling, which she can’t live without. Two important things in her life are books and Scrabble and she also loves world cinema.


A Piece Of Cake

26 Jun

I promised myself to cook more and maybe even start baking. At the end of the day, it is a creative outlet with great tangible results.

There is the chestnut and orange roulade cooling down in the kitchen at the moment, the one that I promised myself to make about three weeks ago. Every week I would buy oranges and then eat them. But I decided I was using the last one for the roulade. And still, I just couldn’t make myself do it. I had a perfect excuse – I do not own all necessary equipment, such as a mixer – the most useful tool for baking. Imagine all that physical work involved in mixing ingredients by hand, I am not a slave!

But during my yet another sleepless night, lying in bed, I started comparing the old times with today’s. All those household electrical, noise making appliances were invented to make our lives easier. As if there was nothing better than to wake up to the neighbour’s mowing their lawn at 8.30 on Saturday morning! Nothing better to do? A lie-in, no? But I want a lie-in!!!

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I made a loaf of bread. Yummy, but what a hard work! All that kneading, my poor spaghetti arms hurt after like after three minute plank. The women of the past, I bow down to you. I guess, working in the kitchen then was comparable to building a house. And I am exaggerating just a tiny bit.

That must have been a great lifestyle; getting an exercise while making something useful. And today? The supermarket’s aisles are full of ready made meals, so all those beautiful appliances are doomed to be used by only a few the chosen ones, those who have time on their hands, housewives without a proper job, those who don’t work hard enough to make money. People with ‘alternative’ lifestyles. Because only workoholism counts for mainstream.

So we do not have time to cook a proper dinner every night. After all, there are take-aways and ready meals to get us by, shovelling in our mouths, to be done with, moving to something else.

After work, we head to gym, because that is the only right place for exercising. Apparently, they even have screens that play images of the nature to make the run on the treadmill more interesting.

That reminds me of a date I had years ago. The first and the last one. He said he was at he gym basically every night. He would drive there although it was just twenty minutes away. He had to drive there because there was, ehm … a very steep hill on the way.

So me, refusing to ever step on the gym’s grounds, I decided I will make that cake without the mixer or the electrical whisk, like all good women before the electricity was invented. I put on a good energetic song (the only electricity that I used while baking) and was whisking away while dancing in the kitchen. Eggs and sugar proved to be quite easy but the egg whites! My mum taught me that unless you can put them over your head and they’ll stay in the bowl, keep whisking. But we had the lovely mechanical whisk with which you just had to turn the handle. That was a hard work, too.

So I whisked like crazy for two whole songs but it just wasn’t good enough, at least not according to my mother’s standards, her voice from long gone past still in my head. I sweated (my level of fitness is really below the zero) and it still wasn’t enough. My biceps hurt so bad that I had to give up. Hopefully, the cake will still be lovely and she will be proud of me.

So there is a piece of advice for these hard economic times – don’t go to gym, bake and knead like in the old times.

PS: The roulade is edible. 🙂

About the Writer: Zdena comes from Slovakia but has made Wales her second home, that is when she is not travelling, which she can’t live without. Two important things in her life are books and Scrabble and she also loves world cinema.

Vegetarian Fast Food

24 Jun

You’re travelling to meet the family. You’re on your lunch break prior to a meeting. You’re with your family at a service station on the way to the annual holiday. Where do you go for lunch? Well there’s plenty of those good old fast food places, McDonalds, Burger King or KFC? You see that man tucking into a Big Mac and can’t hold the hunger any longer. As you slowly wander over to the counter and peer up at the menu, you pause. What can you eat? Meat…meat…meat… Aren’t there any other options? Here in this article, we look at what is on offer in some of the biggest corporate companies, for the people who decide that they no longer want to eat meat.

While beginning my investigation, I wanted to hear what the companies had to say first on their policy on vegetarian food. On firstly ringing, KFC, they explained that they had ‘no policy.’ However there were sides available for veggies such as fries, beans, corn and coleslaw. Take out of that what you want but I wouldn’t say that these ‘sides’ were exactly filling or substantial. The other two companies to test were McDonalds and Burger King. They however weren’t getting back to me so I have decided to review their food fairly and look at the options available. In McDonalds, there was one veggie option (Veggie Deli) and no choice for children in the Happy Meals section. Unfortunately, after 8pm they no longer serve the veggie deli. McDonalds had this to comment when addressed on the issue, ‘A vegetarian Happy Meal has been trialled before but didn’t prove popular at the time. However, McDonald’s is always working hard to provide its customers with as much choice and value as possible and this is no different for vegetarian customers.’ Jan, 09. They go on to say that the fries, fruit bag and garden salad are wholly vegetarian. But not exactly what you go to a fast food restaurant for…

Moving on to Burger King. The said Veggie Burger actually turned out to be cooked in animal fat and their fries have only recently changed to becoming vegetarian. What is left? Onion Rings that contain whey and bagels, which contain egg. Burger King does not endorse that its milkshakes or ice creams are vegetarian suited either. In certain foods, the ingredients state that they are from ‘unknown sources.’ ‘Some places carry veggie burger, but they are usually cooked in the same oil that is used to cook meat.’ On their website, Burger King states, ‘Burger King Corporation makes no claim that the BK VeggieTM Burger or any other of its products meets the requirements of a vegan or vegetarian diet.’

Last, I followed up on the KFC frequently asked questions bit of their website. Someone has asked, ‘Why don’t you offer a vegetarian option?’ Their answer was much the same as when I spoke to them on the phone, ‘Currently we do not offer a vegetarian option due to the low demand. However, some of our sides may be suitable for vegetarians. Please visit the nutritional pages of this website for more information.’

While writing this article, I discussed with my colleagues what I was doing. One colleague told me that her friends had studied at Corpus Christi College in Oxford for 2 years. There had only been one vegetarian option on the menu and after 2 years of eating the same meal, she turned back to eating meat. When I tried calling the catering manager, she was unavailable and after being placed on hold for a long period of time, I gave up on speaking to them.

My aim here wasn’t to turn everybody reading this article into raging vegetarians (although that would be a perfect world) but just to point out that giving up meat shouldn’t be such a chore. Vegetarians should be respected instead of having to go out of their way for a decent meal. There should just be more awareness in the world that people who are purposely not eating animals are being forced to either return to it or go without of out of their way to have a basic meal.

For more information on where to go when you are out and about, this book comes recommended: The Vegetarian Resource Group.

About the writer: Becky has just finished a degree in English and Creative Writing and is very happy with her 2:1. She is friendly, bubbly and just so happens to be the co-creator of Yellow Bunting. She hopes you enjoy it and that you get involved!

The after Christmas decisions

14 Jan


We all go on one at some point in our lives, well we say we do but then the choccies and other goodies in the fridge entice us to leave it just one more day. Some people however take dieting that one step further and this article is to help guide you into what to do to safely lose those unwanted pounds.

First of all, starving yourself is not the right thing to do. Yes, it may help to lose a little initially but over time it can actually mean that you put on more weight when you resume a normal eating pattern. Starving yourself can also lead to longer serious illnesses like eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa which can have dreadful consequences such as fatalities, loss of the ability to have children, osteoporosis and a lot more side effects.

You may think that you’ve heard this all before and it could never effect you but as a 14 stone teenager that’s what I thought. A couple of years later and I was seeing a dietician every week, on all kinds of tablets and having my bloods taken and my heart monitored. Someone recently said to me, ‘I’m not stupid enough to let that happen to me, I couldn’t, I enjoy my food too much’. Well I was quite overweight and it still happened to me so remember it can happen to anyone so never think you are exempt, all of us have to look after ourselves.

With the new year now and it being after Christmas, more and more adverts, magazine covers, billboards etc. will start showing themselves telling you how happy celebrities are to lose weight when in fact the picture of their ‘new self’ is airbrushed to the max and doesn’t look anything like real life. In fact while writing this article, one of these adverts has shown up already on tv. Don’t let these companies and ideas rip you off. Yes, be healthy but also live. Don’t let them all win, be happy with your body, be healthy and enjoy life.


About the Writer: Becky has just finished a degree in English and Creative Writing and is very happy with her 2:1. She is friendly, bubbly and just so happens to be the co-creator of Yellow Bunting. She hopes you enjoy it and that you get involved!

Mince Pies

22 Dec

You can’t have Christmas without mince pies!

Makes about 12*

150g (6oz) plain flour
100g (4oz)  very cold unsalted butter, cubed
50g (2oz) icing sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
411g jar of mincemeat
Granulated or caster sugar (optional)

Put the flour, butter, icing sugar and salt into a large bowl. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs and there are no big pieces of butter left in the mix (there’s a video here if you’re unsure of how to do this).

Add the egg bit by bit, stirring it through with a table knife after every addition. You want to add just enough that your dough starts to clump together, you might not need it all but hold on to any leftover – we’ll use it up later. It’s time to get your hands in now, gather the dough up and form it into a ball. Wrap your dough up in clingfilm and leave it to rest and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas6. Get your chilled pastry out of the fridge and roll it to a thickness of 2-3mm on a floured work surface. Using a round pastry cutter cut out 12 circles of pastry large enough to line the indentations of the tin. Gently press the pastry into each hole and then fill with mincemeat.

Cut 12 smaller circles out of the remaining pastry (you may have to gather it up and re-roll it). Put these on top of the mincemeat to form lids and press around the edges to attach the lid to the base. Using a sharp knife make a couple of small slits in the lid, this is for steam to escape from when the pies are baking. Brush the lids with the leftover beaten egg (if you don’t think you have enough to cover them all you can add a splash of milk to the egg). A nice optional extra is to sprinkle each tart with a little sugar before baking, it gives them a nice sparkle.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until beautifully golden. (And, as difficult as it is, leave them to cool before tucking in – mincemeat gets HOT in the oven).

*How many the recipe makes depends entirely on the tin you use. I use a fairly standard shallow bun tin like this and I get 12. You could use mini tart tins for bite size pies or a muffin tin for deeper pies, just remember if your pies are much smaller they’ll take a little less time to cook (check at about 15 minutes) and if they’re much bigger they’ll take a little longer and you might need extra mincemeat.

About the writer: Catherine is a biology geek by day and cake baker by night. When she’s not in the kitchen you’ll be able to find her writing, tending to her tomato plant or curled up reading one of her many cookbooks.

It’s Not A Load Of Junk

21 Nov

I joked to a friend that I’d put the series of articles on carbs/fat/protein in the first few issues because whilst I thought it was important to write them I also thought they were pretty boring and wanted to get them out of the way as soon as possible. I do know they were a bit of a drag to read (they weren’t that exciting to write either!) but I was in a cafe last week and overheard a conversation which reminded me why I wrote them in the first place.

“Did you know vegetables have CARBS?!” one girl gasped to her gaggle of friends as they drank their decaf skim lattes. The conversation that followed included one girl swearing off apples (again, CARBS!!!) and another singing the praises of sugar-free coke (no carbs, so it must be alright!).

I mean seriously?! Vegetables are the enemy now?

The reason I wrote those articles was because I wanted to highlight the important role that all types of food play in our diets, I wanted to show that there’s a reason that you shouldn’t cut whole food groups out of your diet because they’re supposedly “unhealthy” or “fattening”. When we eat we get to make a decision about what food we’re going to choose to fuel our bodies and when we make those decisions it’s best to be as informed as possible; it might sound unimportant or boring to some of you but I think that choice is exciting and empowering. I hope that anyone who reads those articles does feel like they’ve learnt something which they can put to use (at least) 3 times a day.
I also think it’s important to point out that whilst I’m talking about eating a healthy balanced diet containing all of the major food groups, it’s also okay to not care every so often. I’d hate for you to think that I was some health nut lecturing you about my perfect diet. Sometimes life gets in the way (which is why this article is being posted about 2 months later than I’d originally planned…), sometimes stress drives you to eat a kit kat for dinner followed by a mars bar for dessert (or at least that’s what stress does to me), sometimes you just want to pig out. Go for it!

As for those girls in the cafe? I would have gone over and spoken up in defence of carbs but I was far too busy with a slice of chocolate cake…

About the writer: Catherine is a biology geek by day and cake baker by night. When she’s not in the kitchen you’ll be able to find her writing, tending to her tomato plant or curled up reading one of her many cookbooks.

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

7 Nov

I love cooking with other people – mainly because I like stealing their ideas! I visited our lovely film guru Sarah recently and she whipped up a delicious spinach and ricotta cannelloni. I used to make something similar except it took about three times as long to make so I’ve stolen some of her ideas about how to streamline the process.

Serves 4
Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
400g spinach, washed
250g ricotta
Cannelloni tubes (this recipe fills about 12, though it depends on the size of the tubes and how generously you fill them)
500g tomato sauce (out of a jar is fine!)
Mozzarella or cheddar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook stirring frequently until soft, about 6 minutes. You don’t want the onions to colour, if they start looking golden brown turn the heat down a little. Once the onion is soft add the garlic and cook for a minute more.

Add the spinach to the onions and garlic. It seems like a lot of spinach and it probably won’t all fit in your pan at first but it will shrink down a lot as you cook it, add as much as will fit in the pan and then when it shrinks down add more until it’s all in. The spinach should cook until it’s totally soft and wilted, this shouldn’t take longer than a couple of minutes. Once it’s done tip it into a mixing bowl.
Add the ricotta to the spinach along with a good grating of parmesan, probably about a handful but you can use more or less depending on your tastes. Grate a little nutmeg into the mixture (not too much! A little goes a long way) and add a twist or two of pepper. Mix everything up.

Stuff your cannelloni tubes with the mixture. There are lots of techniques for this but I usually just use a teaspoon and push the mixture into each end of the tube, sometimes I use the handle of the spoon to make sure it’s pushed right down inside the tube. This part does take a while and there’s no way that I know to streamline this bit!

Put the filled cannelloni tubes in an ovenproof dish. You want them in a single layer but fairly tightly packed. Pour the tomato sauce over the pasta. Smooth the sauce out over the cannelloni tubes, if it doesn’t cover them fully add a little water to the dish (a tablespoon or two should do), this is so the pasta doesn’t dry out in the oven. At this point you can grate some cheddar over the top or rip up a ball of mozzarella and dot that over the top. Finish with a generous grating of parmesan over the surface and bake for about 35 minutes until it’s bubbling and the pasta is cooked through.

About the Writer: Catherine is a biology geek by day and cake baker by night. When she’s not in the kitchen you’ll be able to find her writing, tending to her tomato plant or curled up reading one of her many cookbooks.