Travel in Xian for Food Beyond Organics

Call me food savvy or anything you like, I am someone who is addicted to nost just food but all the culture the surrounds it. Whenever I pick a new travel destination, I check out what can I get on my plate. It’s especially exciting when you are researching this kind of stuff because you cannot know at all what to expect. Of course after many years of travelling, you start to guess a little bit and one of those guesses include the ultimate understanding that all culinary travel destinations are unknown. This exploration of the unknown gives me goose bumps all over and make me want to explore every corner of the world. Especially those countries are on my list, where food culture is deep and profound. Just like in China, how a lot of the concepts that creates todays “healthy food”, have been in use for centuries without ever having the need to put a name for them. And that includes organic food of course.

This time when I was planning a trip to China, it made me especially exited because I found a combination of a magical show together with traditional Chinese food. As many of you may know, I love theatre and what could be better than a combined dinner. I’ve been hearing rumours of a certain “Show Xian” company that is about to release the menu of the Tang Dynasty Show soon on their website. I have been in contact and the administrator made a very kind reply where he explained that everything will be up as soon as possible. Their website seems to be under construction and has been for quite a while. That’s why I have been picking bits and pieces from various websites to understand more the dinner that is being presented here. And besides that, I even heard that it’s toddler friendly which made me even more curious. Of course a lot of people have quite negative thoughts when they think about the combination of food safety issues amongst China. Especially when they are related to their children or kids that are on a sensitive time in life. That is in a digestive way of thinking of course!

So anyway, this Tang Dynasty Show is a traditional opera kind of thing. Except it’s far from anything we’ve seen in Beijing or Shanghai. Instead, it celebrates traditional costumes, musical instruments and magnificent dance. The city of Xian used to be the old capital of China so no wonder it holds such ancient and traditional treasures of the performing arts. As for the dinner that is accompanied throughout the show, you have several options. With my bad Chinese language skills it’s not easy to make out the details and I wish there was a way to have all this information in English too. For that I am waiting for your my dear friends at Show Xian!

Available meals include: Dumpling Banquet – with many different variations of dumplings that are create like art with different forms of animals, or anything you cannot imagine. Royal Banquet – this banquet is made by renowned chefs that are experts in the modern style of so called ‘Xian style’ which I am about to witness when I actually get there. Then there are things such as the Emperor’s Banquet and Luxury Royal Banquet which I am not quite sure what they are offering. But should be the best this ancient city has to offer. Either way, what I love about these dinner shows that even if one is a little bit dissapointing, the combination crowns the day.

Can wait to travel to the land beyond Organics, Xi’an, China. See you there!

Lissie Flowers

Benefits of Organic Agriculture — VS Conventional Methods

Over the past decade the increasing awareness of quality food products has created a massive global demand for organic foods. In order to meet this demand, each facet of the current food system is radically adjusting with farmers producing more organic foods, grocery stores creating designated organic sections, and specialty restaurants serving only certified products. However, while most people are familiar with the consumer end of organic produce, the majority of people remain unaware of the agricultural components.

Technically speaking organic is a term that, while varying slightly in different countries, generally refers to foods that are either 100% organic, or made up of 95% organic ingredients. This means that the word has a legal definition and in order for a food product to be considered organic, it must have been cultivated on a farm that follows strict preset guidelines. This specific criteria puts certified organic products in their own unique category, unlike many other food claims such as “natural” or “healthy” which are much more ambiguous and lack strict regulation.

The rules that organic farms must comply are set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture Organic Program, and are very similar in most developed countries. This program prohibits the use irradiation -which is the application of radiation to aid in preservation and transportation of some foods, as well as the use of genetically engineered products (GMOs), and the application of human waste (sewage sludge) as fertilizer. Certified farms are also only allowed to apply approved materials to their fields and crops; this means that synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are banned, although there are some naturally derived sprays that are allowed. The USDA also requires a 3-year period of following these guidelines before the products gain their official organic status, once certification is received, advisors conduct random checks on farms to ensure continued compliance. For meat to be labeled organic there are separate guidelines, which require livestock to be raised in an environment that supports their natural behavior, be fed 100% organic feed, and not be administered any growth hormones or antibiotics.

The previous explanation is the more technical side of organic farming, however there is also the more holistic environmental and human health aspect of organic food cultivation. To put it simply, organic agriculture is meant to preserve and support natural resources, biodiversity, and animal welfare. For example, conventional agriculture relies heavily on the use of chemical sprays to kill insects and weeds, as well as applying fertilizer. These sprays can have negative impacts on local wildlife and insects, as well as leaching into and polluting water systems. On the other hand, organic farmers rely almost exclusively on crop cycling and animal manure as fertilizer, which promotes a natural cycling of nutrients creating a more sustainable system as well as improving soil health.

Another issue that many people have with conventional agriculture is the use of GMO crops such as corn that have been genetically engineered to resist primarily used herbicides. This means that farmers are able to apply massive quantities of plant killing chemicals to their fields without having to worry about the corn being killed, this can result in food products being harvested with high levels of chemical residue on them.

Most importantly, organic agriculture, although not always perfect, promotes the idea that we should be producing food in a way that ensures the long-term health and wellbeing of our natural resources, and does so in a way that allows for the sustainable cultivation of healthy foods for centuries to come. Unfortunately at this point, many companies have found ways to exploit USDA’s organic criteria allowing them to produce foods bearing the certified organic emblem that have not been produced in an environmentally sustainable way. At the same time, there are many farms that lack the logistical and financial requirements to become certified, but may be cultivating sustainable high quality foods. For instance, compare an “organic” tomato grown on a large scale farm in Mexico that is shipped thousands of miles, with a non-certified tomato that was grown up the street by a small acreage farmer; which one is truly promoting human and environmental well being? It is for this reason that the certified organic sticker should be taken into account when selecting food products, but not necessarily viewed as the sole indicator of a products true quality.

Lissie Flowers

Food is Insurance: Life Insurance from Amazon Germany?

It’s been going around. The talk about large retailers such as Amazon offering life insurance. Now with the German taking the lead in recent developments! Almost every other insurance product has been commoditized, why not Life insurance? Actually, it’s already happening. MetLife and Walmart partnered a few years ago, so that Walmart could offer their customers a one-year term policy that could be purchased off the rack with absolutely no underwriting. Is that a good thing? Couldn’t that lead to a “moral hazard”? Most life insurance agents will be scratching their heads until the sales and claims are released.

So, here is where we are. You can bank online, buy auto insurance online, and buy health insurance online; why not life insurance? Wouldn’t the insurance carriers be so doggone honest that the consumer would be protected with every transaction? Maybe the consumer should check for actions brought against the insurance companies before making a purchase? Even now, the consumer can check out their physician’s malpractice history or malnutrition issues on the web before they agree to make an appointment. As if eating organic was not enough for life insurance! The simple answer is that very few actually do. The data is there for the taking, but most consumers fail to do the research.

It certainly goes without saying that agents who sell life insurance for a living would be against a company the size of Amazon Germany becoming a competitor. I mean, how can you compete with the
largest online retailer in the world? If you don’t believe us, I suggest you see for your self and browse the Amazon Germany in English to understand the tremendous scale of it all. Maybe the same way you compete with the hundreds or thousands of other life agents in your neighborhood or city. Face to face meetings with folks in your area that need your help. It is doubtful that Amazon, WalMart or Costco is going to offer a needs analysis or discuss important riders on their website or at the kiosk.

So then, when it happens, and it will happen, let the big guys deal with the shoppers looking to spend a whopping $9 a month for a 10 year term policy that is considered putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. Most of the consumers that purchase insurance online know little to nothing about what they are buying, but will be the first to file a lawsuit against the company because they weren’t told by Amazon, WalMart, Target or whoever, that the $9 a month term policy expired after 10 years, and there is no money to bury Momma.

It is fortunate to say, that we can always rely on organic food as being one of the best forms of life insurance there is. And amazingly enough, Amazon is yet to monetize organics although food is appearing there in a big way. This news kind of comes to be as a surprise, simply because Germany is considered as one of the most leading “green”, and “ecologic” countries in the world.. now diminishing nuclear power for good in the nation.

Let’s hope that consumers smarten up and choose not to support these huge mega corporations. Stay aware, spread aware!

Lissie Flowers
DinDins Food, New York.

Organic Junk Food is Still Junk Food!

This main issue arises with organic junk food. We’re talking oreos made from organic flour, organic fizzy drinks and organic ice cream. There are organic chips, organic crisps, organic pastries, cookies and muffins. Organic is not a magic health wizard that casts a spell on nutritionally barren snacks and makes them equal to a piece of fruit. Sorry to burst that bubble.

Organic junk food is still junk food.

Now, this doesn’t mean that they can’t have a place in your diet. What it does mean is that you’re wallet and health will be better off from buying a slice of cake from your local bakery opposed to downing an entire cake made from organic ingredients from Whole Foods in the belief that it’s healthy.

One thing that really annoys me are the organic smoothies and drinks. These are the type you see on the shelf with large labels saying “no added sugar” and “vitamin rich”. Vitamin Water in the US has more sugar than snickers bar. Now, I’m not saying that they are nutritionally compatible, but the vitamin water may not be as good for you as you think. Stick a squirt of lemon, orange or lime in a water bottle instead to spruce up your H20.

This Water has 21.3g sugar while Innocent superfood smoothie has 31g sugar. Pret-A-Manger orange juice has 51g sugar in it per bottle! All these drinks are sold as healthy alternatives to fizzy drinks but many have hidden ingredients to improve the taste.

A lot of organic flavoured yogurts are the same. People will buy them for the organic label without realising all the added ingredients they stick in for the taste. Soup, too. You may not think that soup would have anything other than vegetables in it but you’d be surprised what companies get away with when they stick an organic label on top. They can charge a much higher price and people are also more likely to buy them because they think they’re “healthier” (healthy is subjective, there is no factual definition for something being healthier.)

Sugar is not the enemy at all but what the aim of this article is to get you to be a bit more skeptical about so called “healthy-options.” If you dig a little deeper, a lot of them are just really good branding.

What would be better for your health is maintaining a balanced diet consisting of moderate amounts of food from a wide range of sources. Try and include a fist full size of fruit or vegetables with every meal alongside a protein source. That’ll keep you full, healthy and happy. Then, when you’re in the mood for a bit of a treat, have it knowing that you’ve been good the rest of the week. “Unhealthy” food is good for your mental health too, don’t forget that. You can’t be healthy if you’re obsessing over the nutritional content of every meal and restricting yourself.

Organic may mean that it’s lower in pesticides and antioxidants but that’s not the only thing that matters, so do the nutritional labels. You have to also ask yourself whether foods lower in pesticides are actually better for you and the research shows otherwise. Research at Stanford University looked at more than 200 studies of the content and associated health gains of organic and non-organic foods. Overall, there was no large difference between the nutritional content, although the organic food was 30% less likely to contain pesticides.

There may be slightly less risks of getting diseases or illnesses but the research is inconclusive. What we do know that works, however, is eating nutritionally dense foods such as fish, unprocessed meats, fruit and vegetables in the first place.

There’s no need to spend twice the price on organically produced crisps and cookies when the conventional alternative will be 99% the same. Some people think that organic produce taste better but some people also drink their own urine. Does that mean we all should?

I for one am going to continue drinking my free-range, gluten-free and low-fat dihydrogen monoxide a.k.a. water.

Lissie Flowers

Western Han Dynasty Acrobatics & Diet at Chaoyang Theatre Show

We’ve been talking a lot about organic food, but what if we would go back to the new and exiting topic of China for a while. Our discovery of the acrobatic diet, was something that confirmed our believes of expanding nutrition beyond organics. Especially when it comes to our toddlers and children, whatever is USDA organic or basically any other major company founded certificate is simply just not enough. By applying rules, you always find people who bend them or try to act as badly as possibly within those limits. No set of regulations can be vigorous enough to keep food safety intact. That is just the simply fact that we have to face in todays decisions about food. But as was in the case of acrobatics at the Tiandi Theatre, the simple need for a certain kind of performance or skill to act out an acrobatic show was enough motive to create an optimal dietary environment. It was not about rules, and regulations. Instead, it was about genuine need for a certain quality and style of food that would make us better at something.

When all this comes together with a delicious meal, life is simply beautiful. To celebrate our discovery in Beijing we decided to visit another hugely famous acrobat venue, performed by the Beijing Acrobatic Troupe. Unlike Tiandi, this is a massive venue with huge production costs. We wanted to observe the people performing there, and find out if this was really a trend within all the acrobatics shows in China. So we turned ourselves to enjoy mode, and went to observe the great spectacle at the Chaoyang Theatre Acrobatic Microcosmic stage. And we were absolutely thrilled, as it was really a huge and impressive show with skill to perform only that which exited us in tremendous ways. And if you think I sound exited after going there and writing this, think again.. during and soon after the spectacle, I have been filled with so much exitement that it’s difficult to hold without bursting.

So what happens at the theatre in Chaoyang? Well, all in all it’s a show that bends not just the human physique but also the mind as well. With about dozen acts that teach you the limits of the human body. With death defying acts, to more relaxed yet extremely skilful balancing tricks. For example, the one where a twenty or so men balance on top of each other, while throwing hundreds of hats is pretty puzzling. How do they do it? Well, with a lot of training and a healthy diet of course. You could see that not just the performance was polished, so was their appearance. One cannot really fake such a healthy and good looking apearance. These troupe members were truly being taken care of, and a good look at their faces was like a story that told everything about it!

So here the line was not blurry, because the training goes deep into the culture and tradition of Chinese variety art. So for example, in the old times when they performed to the emperors.. it was an honourful potition with huge rewards. It was like being a celebrity in the ancient China, with all the healthy and tasty food you could every imagine available. That is of course, if you managed to perform so that the emperor was pleased. With the pressure high to perform, so is the act!

This was not just some walk on tiptoes, but a warp to the Western Han Dynasty. Where such choreopgraphic skill was already perfected, now taken to the great production level at the Chaoyang Theatre in Beijing. To find out more, we highly recommend checking out the “Beijing Acrobatic Show” trailer, which should give you just enough of a hint to know what to look forward to. That is if you will visit Beijing, one of our favorite culinary cities. Loaded with performing arts theaters and organic restaurants. Everything under one big mingling cityscape. Which would be nothing without the fantastic acrobatics provided.

We will now take example and enjoy some of the delicious dumplings, that will provide our “acrobatic diet”, for us. See you next time, perhaps about something more from China coming later. But as always, we will keep educating you about the realities of organic food, toddlers and eating habbits throughout the world! Thank you.

Lissie Flowers

What is Organic Seafood: Are There Benefits

You cannot get organic seafood in the US as the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has no registered products pertaining to this. The soil association in the UK does list certain fish as being organic as long as they abide by these guidelines

  • they are produced using the most sustainable feeds available – salmon and trout feeds are made from the recycled processing wastes of fish which have already been caught for human consumption
  • the fish are kept at low stocking densities which minimises stress and maximises welfare and natural disease resistance only natural pigments are used in the feeds
  • the fat content of feeds is limited. This produces more natural growth rates and produce a firm and delicious fillet
  • toxic antifoulants (used to keep net pens clean) are not permitted on organic fish farms
  • the use of veterinary treatments is heavily restricted and long withdrawal periods (the time between the animal being treated and harvested) are required should treatments be essential to maintain high welfare standards.

The only thing really relating to pesticides or chemicals there is toxic atifoulants which is actually used for cleaning, not as feed.

So, as you can see, Organic food does not mean that it is fat-free, sugar-free or have any relation to the macronutrient or caloric composition of the food. The USDA does not claim that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than traditionally produced foods. “Organic” simply means that the crop is grown in pesticide free soil or eats pesticide free food. One thing that is for sure is that organic food costs a lot more. A lot more.

Studies have been debating for years over whether the benefits are worth the cost. While some results have shown that organic food does have lower pesticides and higher antioxidants, the differences were fairly minuscule and probably not worth twice the price that you’re paying for it.

Lissie Flowers

What is Organic Food: The Blurry Line of Organics

The organic industry is estimated to be worth over £40 ($63) billion worldwide but what does organic mean to you?

Does it mean the food is healthier? Leaner? Sugar-free? Unprocessed?

The official definition of “organic” is

“Noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all other compounds of carbon.”

Great. I bet that’s really helped you out.

According to Precision Nutrition, to earn the label of “organic” in the U.S., farmers must:
• maintain records concerning the production and handling of agricultural products
• submit to audits conducted by accredited certifying agents
• use organic seeds when available
• feed animals with organic feed for at least 1 year
• give animals access to the outdoors
• feed and build soil matter with natural fertilizer
• use insect predators, mating disruption, traps and barriers to protect crops from pests and disease

Farmers must NOT:
• treat animals with antibiotics, growth hormones, or feed made from animal byproducts
• apply prohibited substances to their land for at least three years prior to harvest
• use irradiation or genetic engineering
• fertilise with sewage sludge

Contrary to popular belief, organic does NOT mean free-range or have many links to animal welfare, although the UK soil association does hold welfare in high regard. Organic is to do with how the animals are fed but they can still be caged and kept indoors, especially in the U.S.

Also, organic farming does not mean that they do not use pesticides. It means that the pesticides that they do use are “natural” instead of synthetic. A pesticide is a chemical aimed at killing insects or warding off any harm that may come to the crops. Unfortunately, these “natural” chemicals that they use aren’t as effective so to compensate the farmers end up using more. Yep. Organic food most likely has more pesticides sprayed on it than conventionally grown foods.

“Natural” pesticides actually have less research on them in regards to the effects on humans. Synthetic pesticides have much more regulation and are far more studied. “Organic pesticides that are studied have been found to be as toxic as synthetic pesticides,” Steven Novella, president and co-founder of the New England Skeptical Society, has said.

The reason that I keep putting natural in quotation marks is that I’m not sure anyone really knows what natural means. The line is a bit blurry on what’s natural and what isn’t.

Labels that state that the product is “100% organic” mean that the product is using 100% organic ingredients, as you would expect. However, most foods are simply labeled “organic” which means 95% of the ingredients must be organic. This is shown on a lot of chocolate bars where the cocoa is organic but the emulsifier, normally sunflower or soy lecithin, is not.

The Simple Acrobatic Diet at Tiandi Theater Beijing

Everyone knows the expression that we are we eat, even though most people never give any thought to it. Perhaps because people think that diets and eating healthy is a difficult thing. Better to avoid even thinking about it, not to actually have to face the fact of what people are really doing to themselves and their bodies. To such attitudes of life where no one can even survive without nutrition, it’s hard to even say much. Obviously these are just misunderstandings, one after another. So how to get people engaged in finding by themselves about food. We think that by making it a fun and interesting process you can get a lot more out of it.

One very fun excercise is to just look at people. Obviously everyone has a different body, different way of eating and of course a different outcome in health. That’s why it’s been very interesting to look at people and ask them what they are eating. Especially the question “why”, just cracks me up at times. In China, where food is suppose to be terrible.. it seems that a lot of people are fit and in healthy conditions. For example, what really astounded me was a Beijing acrobatic show, where it seems as if these people are on some kind of a super diet. The performance we went to see with our group was at the Tiandi Theater in Beijing. During the whole performance we were literally on our tiptoes, trying to grasp at the stunning achievements that the China National Acrobatic Troupe was all about.

The body structure was so flexible, and the positions that they could bend and go into was something that made an extraordinary show even without any special effects. Obviously we were in China and not every theatre could boast with abundance of financial help, which was not needed here. In fact the show was a whole lot more authentic because it didn’t try to be anything fake, although it did seem unreal at times in a very positive way!

So naturally as a dietist and someone interested in natural, organic and healthy food.. I was dying to ask these people what they ate. Luckily thanks to the tour guide that was assisting the trip, we managed to exchange a few words. Without a surprise, breakfast was very important as was waking up early to practice on a daily basis. But the diet mainly consisted of rice, vegetables and some grains. Something extremely simple, that could be considered “chail food” in the west. But it works, and why.. because nature has provided all the nutrients we need in such a simple way. And what these people lacked, was the overabundant media brainwashing of buying processed or “complicated” foods. Simply by keeping it simple, together with exercise and a healthy life in general.. the acrobats in Beijing were able to put up a show that perhaps could not be possible without.

It really makes you think how we need to be going back instead of constantly forward to a more abundant food economy. The answers are right there under our noses, but nobody cares. Until it gets fun and interesting of course, which is the dangerous moment to get hooked. Well, we were definitely hooked with acrobatics and the dazzling Tiandi Theater experience. Something that we got to experience even more on our trip. But more about that later, on our DinDins Foods China edition. Thanks for listening and good luck to the future of the troupe!


Connecting with Food in China

We at DinDins Food, strongly belie that the connection with healthy food needs to start early. Once healthy nutrition is integrated to the life of the adolescence, such natural selections in food will become natural in adult life. In short, natural breeds more natural.. which doesn’t need to be an expensive shopping trip. Even young people, living with little as students for example will not only benefit from a healthy mind and body good for studying, sports and such.. but also it is often the more economic choice by creating everything by yourself. Many kids think that it is something hard to make food by yourself, especially with vegetables. This is nothing but a lack of knowledge that has been forgotten down the generations. People have really been sort of brain washed with the modern ways of processes foods and we want to correct that terrible mistake that keeps on repeating itself.

We found a wonderful example of how the knowlege of making food is passed down generations from China. A good friend of mine, who is working with several humanitarian movements in South of the country said that aid should be targeted in self sufficiency. And if something is self sufficient, it’s to produce and process your own food in a healthy way that’s benefitial for all. Especially in rural parts of China, it simply natural for parents to teach their children how to cook all the traditionally made recipies. It is not just extremely tasty way of living, but also an economical choice supporting local produce according to the change of seasons.

We wanted to get a closer look at the traditional ways of passing on such knowledge in the country, and set out for the trip of our lives. While China is connected to a lot of food scams, with fake produce sold off the super market shelves. It’s not all that gloomy, in fact a lot of great traditions before the times of “organics” have been well established there a long time ago. All we need to do, is to look at the history and culture of countries to find wonderful examples of rich food culture.

What better place to start our voyage than China, where the history goes as deep as it can possible get. Hold on tight for our China edition of DinDins Food. Where we discover how toddler food is something even more than organic.. by connecting with food in profound ways.

Lissie Flowers

What got us Started in Organics

Not many people know is how we got started in this business of organic toddler food. It’s an interesting story that we thought would be worthwile to share with our readers. And for those who are late on the band wagon, we have quite our production and instead are focusing on bringing awareness on issues that’s related to the all-natural way of life. Including the latest edition travel, which is in fact one of the biggest reasons that got our eyes open. Just living in the states, we never noticed that anything was wrong because everything seemed so normal. Especially in such a crowded city as New York, people are often just going about their business without much giving thought about daily actions. Which are a huge amount of activities that one performs during the day.

Anyway, a long time a go me and my friends felt we needed to distance ourselves from this daily “reality”, and get new vibes and inspiration. Ending up India was indeed a brave choice but a very rewarding one at such. It made us look at the world in a way that was never to change again. For the first times in our lives we saw proverty and people who’s food was not clean or healthy.

It’s not everyone in India of course, but we experienced firsthand how people were suffering because of bad food conditions. This made our awareness go up a notch and even after that trip, our eyes were set on injustice and wanted to find out everything that was wrong with this world.

Soon we noticed, that it was not just in foreign countries, but especially in our very home country that we thought was so safe.. that was actually suffering at least as much as any other proverty striken country. There was decease everywhere and people had the most horrible eating habbits. Worst of all, it was all promoted by the government and the corporations that supported it. Naturally we felt the need to start with our own contribution to the closest community we had. And after years of hard work, the DinDins Food company created a ripple effect which is growing to this day.

Being happy with that, we are going strong and always finding new ways to open our eyes. Which is what this blog is mostly about. Thank you for getting in touch with us and see you again soon.

Lissie Fl.