All posts by Daphne Giguere-Bosse

What did the pig do? A look at why certain religions consider pork unclean.

In 1985, Marvin Harris considered the reason of the hate that the Jews and Muslims have against pigs. His first realizations were that it might not come from holy books like the Old Testament or the Koran. In the Koran, there is no mention of pigs per say but descriptions of unnamed animals. In the Old Testament, they talk about swine and how unclean they are :” And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.” (Leviticus 11:7). Further into his study, Harris thinks its more of an environmental and societal issue more than a religious one.

In the Islamic culture, Emperor Saladin had a very pronounced disgust for pigs and pig eaters, especially the Christians. He refused to see Egypt become as filthy as the rest of Europe by letting pigs grow there. For him, pigs were filthy as they were seen as excrements eaters and living in dirt. Harris indicates that pigs are usually very clean animals that would prefer to eat roots, vegetables and drink clean water. The only reason why the pigs would eat their own excrements is if they are starved and have nothing else to eat. Harris wonders why pigs are so taboo and chickens or goats aren’t. Chickens and goats are known to live in their filth and if they must, eat their excrements. In the Leviticus, pigs aren’t the only forbidden animal, cats, dogs and camels are as well. Unlike pigs, these animals only have their flesh forbidden so touching them and herding them is not a forbidden action.

Since the Maimonides emperor ate any kind if meat except pork, it would have been politically incorrect to only tie this to a biblical theory. They investigated the health problems related to the compsumtion of pork. It took at least 700 years to have an actual link between diseases and eating pork. This idea was fast discarded by the Orthodox Jews saying that there is no way that the word of God should be dismissed by “minor medical texts”. Harris said that it would have been easier if the Holy Texts said that they should not eat undercooked meat instead of only forbidding pork

In the Old Testament, there is a precise formula to know what to eat. The Leviticus states that the animal that has a divided hoof and they had to chew their cud. If the animal didn’t fit in one of these categories, it was deemed unclean, thus not to be eaten. Harris explains the origins of this formula with the camel. Camels are not filthy but they are forbidden to eat. At first it was only the cud chewer animals that were allowed but because the camel was deemed unfit, they added the divided hoof rule. Israelites wouldn’t eat camels because they took a long time to grow and they were need to live in the desert. On the other hand, the Koran specifically allows the consumption of camel meat and milk. When prophet Mohammed lived in the desert with his followers, camels were the main source of transportation and food. Harris says that an Islam that banned camel flesh wouldn’t be the Islam we know today.

Going back to the Egyptian pig taboo, one interpretation that could be made of it is that it reflects the conquest of the northern pork-eating country by the pork-abstaining legions. Harris’ interpretation is more down to Earth. He thinks that it is the over population of Egypt and its treeless lands. Pigs need shadow and cool mud to regulate its body temperature since pigs do not sweat. If the animal cannot have access to this climate, it will do what it can to survive, wallow in its feces and roll in its urine to keep their body cool enough to prevent heat strokes. The Egyptians didn’t understand the reasoning of the animal behind its actions so they immediately deemed the animal filth and unclean.

What’s wrong with school lunches?

Ann Cooper is the Director of Nutrition Services for the Berkeley Unified School District in the US. Her main mission is to educate the children on healthy foods and educate their parents also. She firmly believes that we are ‘feeding our children to death’. While it sounds cynical, the CDC compiled statistics to back it up: of all the children born in the year 2000, 1 out of 3 Caucasians, 1 out of 2 African-Americans and Hispanics are going to have diabetes in their lifetime and most of them before they graduate high school. It means that 40 to 45% of all school-aged children could be diabetics within a decade.
Cooper puts at fault the USDA and big agribusiness like Monsanto and DuPont. She says that because the USDA will allow it, Monsanto and others will boost pesticides and herbicides usage on their crops. Every year, the US agriculture will use up to 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides on their crops. This means that every year, everyone will consume around 5 pounds of pesticides. That’s not the only hazardous product humans ingest. Antibiotics are also consumed for no reason. Around 70% of all antibiotics consumed in America are consumed in animal husbandry. Children are fed antibiotics in beef and other protein every day. This is very harmful to the population. It brings antibiotic resistance so diseases are becoming stronger and making people sicker, especially children.
Enormous amounts of money are spent to the profit of non-nutrient foods marketing, 20 billion dollars to be exact. Most of these marketing campaign are geared towards children, that is 10 000 ads most kids will see. It teaches the children that if they don’t get these chicken nuggets or that new brand of soda, it will be the end of their world.
Cooper’s list of goals includes teaching children about where food comes from and what it actually looks like. She claims that children and parents alike need to re-learn how they should view food, health and good nutrition. She believes in farm-to-school programs, cooking classes and gardening classes as a full part of the educational curriculum of each school district. She focuses on the importance of organic and locally produced food. In Harlem, Cooper founded EATWISE: Enlightened and Aware Teens Who Inspire Smart Eating. These teens now teach their peers about smart eating. Unfortunately, schools are underfunded and cannot afford programs like EATWISE. Cooper is a huge believer in PPPs and she says that they are the foundation of this. She also says that the USDA shouldn’t be responsible for schools nutrition’s, the CDC should. If we started to think about food as a health initiative, there wouldn’t be corn dogs and chicken nuggets in the children’s plates.


Starbucks is more than a coffee shop chain, more than designer lattes. It is also a company that works for their employees, from the coffee farmer to the barista hand crafting your latte every morning.

C.A.F.E. stand for what Starbucks believes in: Coffee And Farmer Equity. They believe in ethical sourcing of their coffee. Starbucks wants all its farmers to be treated with equity. Multiple times per year, third party verification organizations will visit the farms to ensure that they are up to fair trade standards. Ever since the C.A.F.E. program was implemented in 2004, over 100 000 farms are participating. This means at least 12 farms are visited each day by these organizations.

Starbucks also believes in helping our armed force. It can be hard for veterans and their families to come back to civilian life. Starbucks wants to give them the tools to make their transitioning easier. They also hire soldiers in between their deployments and keep them on the payroll during the deployment so they always can have a job security when they come back. During deployments, they are involved into helping the families.

Being a partner at Starbucks is very beneficial. Part-time employees have access to health benefits, stock options, paid school fees and much more. Educational programs on sustainability are available to all. Career opportunities within the company are growing and easily attainable. Being a partner also means community involvement.

Every store play their part in being sustainable. To lighten the stores, the company uses LED lights to use the less energy possible. Coffee marc is kept for the customers who want to use it for compost, recycling is very strict and compost is implemented in every city that does it or if communities ask for it for their public gardens.

Sushi : The Global Catch

This documentary shows insight on the impact sushi makes worldwide. It explores the consequences of its rising popularity within the past 30 years and the growing interest of China towards the Japanese meal. Tuna fishing is the most lucrative business in the world but according to filmmaker Mark S. Hall, it is also the less sustainable one. Bluefin tuna is the most expensive and popular species of tuna used for sushi. Hall states that this fish can be caught in three oceans and is all brought to Japan where it is auctioned to numerous countries all over the planet. One of the chef that was interviewed explained that it takes four days for Bluefin caught in Australia to arrive in his New York restaurant. The demand is growing exponentially for Bluefin and so is mass fishing. A traditional Japanese fisherman said that one Japanese fishing boat can bring back up to 600 tons of tuna in one trip. Fishermen prefer net fishing to line fishing because it yields more than the ecologically responsible traditionnal technique.

Since 1950, the Bluefin tuna population decreased of 80% and the Director of the Center for the Future of the Oceans in California, Mike Sutton says that it is alarming for the furture of the oceanic ecosystems all over the planet. Marine biologist and world’s leading expert on Bluefin tuna, Dr. Barbara Block stated that once this fish is gone, it is the whole aquatic ecosystem that will suffer. Hall interviewed interviewed traditionnal Japanese fishermen from the little seaside village Oma and they are scared for their future and the one of their families. These  fishermen are still line fishing and in a 6 months period, they will only yield 30 to 60 tunas. They told him that once there are no more Bluefin tuna, they will not have anymore finacial means to survive.

In San Francisco, seafood activist and self-proclaimed sustainibility expert, Casson Trenor opened a sustainable sushi restaurant which only serves sustainable seafood. It is a small step into protecting the most popular fish, considering that in 2012, one Bluefin tuna was auctioned for 400 000$ in Japan.

This documentary was educational and well done. It gave the facts for what they are and did not try to force feed the viewer with one opinion. It also gave concrete actions that can be made by the general public to try and change the fishing industry.

Quick Ratatouille hors-d’oeuvre

1 zucchini, sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut in bite size squares
1 red onion, cut in half then in quarters
3 tomatoes, cut in quarters, insides removed
Fresh basil
Fresh oregano
2-3 chopped garlic cloves
Canola oil
Salt, pepper

1. Separate each vegetables in 4 different bowls
2. Chop the oregano and separate it into the 4 bowls
3. Separate de garlic in each bowls except for the onions
4. Add a tablespoon of canola oil in each bowl
5. Add salt and pepper
6. Toss all the vegetables
7. Stack one pice of vegetables in muffin tins adding a basil leaf in the middle of each stack.
8. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.
9. When out of the oven, put parchemin paper over the muffin tins and add some wheight to each stack. You can use dried peas.
10. Refregirate for 12 to 48 hours11. serve with crackers