The Food Bubble?

In the last few years, the term ‘housing bubble’ has come into common use and comprehension. The financial crisis we are still struggling to get out of provided a much-needed wake-up call for Americans in every income bracket. In 2008, around the same time, there was a severe rise in food prices across the world. This rise in cost caused hunger in many countries, leading to riots all over Africa and Asia, as people couldn’t afford to buy wheat or rice- daily staples the world over.

At first, one might have dismissed this as simple economics, where demand outstripped supply, but a deeper look finds this event on the heels of the largest wheat harvest in human history. Ever since, analysts have been trying to determine exactly why this happened, and recently, some answers have surfaced. As it turns out, Wall Street has been playing with commodities futures in questionable ways that caused an extreme rise in costs despite the record harvest. Bottom line, they figured out how to make themselves a lot more money, but the residual effect left people struggling and starving all over the world.

Complex financial instruments are the culprit in both the housing and food bubbles. Hardly a soul understands these instruments enough to have seen this ahead of time, including most of the people who work on Wall Street. This trend of designing things that hardy anyone can grasp also showed up in the recent Gulf Oil leak. So few people understood the technology that broke down, that it became impossible for most of the world to be of any use in recommending or implementing solutions. It takes a catastrophe to make us realize how much faith we put in others for our technological choo-choo train to remain on the tracks, and how vulnerable we are when the train derails, which is happening far too often to feel secure.

As much as I am impressed with what humans can now engineer, I am forced to question more each year whether creating a society so reliant on technology is a good thing. We are now forced to specialize to the point where we may be experts on a relatively narrow, esoteric subject, while neglecting basic knowledge on broad, pragmatic subjects. I would argue that in the era of Hurricane Katrina, record floods, and increased natural disasters, maintaining a basic knowledge base in practical matters that don’t rely on modern technology, such as food and survival, is not quaint and antiquated like our society teaches, but are more relevant and necessary than ever!

In that spirit, and since we will be neck-deep in corn for the next few weeks, I want to tell you how to preserve corn for the winter. The sugar in corn changes to starch very quickly, so make plans to preserve it the day you get it, or you will have starchy corn. Shuck the corn. Blanch on the cob for 3 minutes in boiling water, and then plunge it directly into ice water to halt the cooking. Once cool, cut off the cob, scrape the ‘milk’ out, and freeze. The ‘milk’ is what remains on the cob after the kernels have been cut off. Use the back of a knife to scrape it out and enjoy!

This Week’s Harvest: Corn, Summer Squash, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Potatoes, Beets, Garlic, Chard, Green Beans, Dill, Basil, Parsley

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