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September 2013

Healthy life

Healthy food, healthy environment

Elena Fernandez

LiveWell for LIFE , a WWF and Friends of Europe project, has released a milestone report: Adopting Healthy, Sustainable Diets: Key opportunities and barriers,  a three-year project closely examining the relationship between food, health and the environment, This study, a continuation of the research the Rowett Institute did with WWF-UK in 2010-11, has identified some of the most important factors that explain why governments are not supporting sustainable diets, why food companies are discouraged from promoting them and why consumers are slow to adopt them.

  Tony Long, director office, thinks that “many consumers, businesses and governments have a rather odd relationship with our food system which can be summed up as out of sight, out of mind”. People, and society as a whole, often prefer to ignore the impact that our consumption is having on the environment and our health”.

But, why is the way we eat so important? Today the average European consumes almost 3,500 calories a day, 25% more than the daily recommended level and eats approximately  70% more protein, mostly animal, than recommended. I have the feeling that these figures are not more optimistic in the US.

“Obesity in Europe is at an all-time high and rising, causing heart diseases, strokes, diabetes and 10-13% of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It has become one of the biggest health challenges of our time, costing our governments billions of euros in health bills,” explains Long.

But WWF´s report shows a new point of view to the debate. The way we eat doesn’t only affect our health; it affects our environment as well. One of the clearest impacts of our food addiction is the destruction of forested areas for agricultural produce.

This puts a heavy toll on our global CO2 output. Between 1990 and 2008 Europe imported and consumed about 9 million hectares of newly deforested land, roughly three times the size of Belgium, and all this despite the fact that we throw away over one-third of the food we produce.

The good news highlighted by the report is that policy makers are starting to wake up to the idea of supporting sustainable diets.  This is partly because old taboos warning politicians against interfering in what people should eat or drink, a taboo reinforced by the agri-foods industry,  are breaking down in the face of rapidly mounting health costs.

Business and industry need to accept its role and its responsibility in developing sustainable diets. Not only do they have a duty to offer sustainable products to consumers but they also need to use their marketing might to create a market for such products.

The report concludes that the final consumer has a great responsibility in his food choices too. All studies and surveys show a big gap between what people feel and say, and what they do related to Healthy food choices.

Lake Dewey from Naches Loop

Lake Dewey from Naches Loop


You can find the third best paella in the world in … Miami

Elena Fernandez

A restaurant in the province of Cuenca (Spain), the Posada Real  has won first prize in the International Paella Valenciana contest held last weekend in the Valencian town of Sueca.  Picanterra House Restaurant , Cullera (Valencia ) got the second position.

Surprisingly the third prize wasn´t  won for any Spaniard restaurant. but for the new restaurant Chambao from Miami (USA ). As you see you don´t need to travel to Spain to enjoy a delicious paella. In fact restaurants from New Zealand ,  Tokyo ( Japan ), and Hamburg (Germany) were finalists too.  The competition, which this year has reached the fifty-third edition,  assembled thirty accredited restaurant chefs all around the world ,

Each of the participants prepared a 15-serving paella following the original valencian recipe put together by the organizing committee and endorsed by the Club Chefs of Valencia: rice , olive oil , chicken , rabbit , snails , dry beans , green beans , white beans , ripe tomato, saffron,  paprika , salt and water .

The jury , composed of experts of gastronomy, paellas praised by various criteria such as cooking point , taste , color , symmetry of the ingredients and socarrat, rice crisp, point .  Sueca is considered the most important rice-growing town in Spain , with more than 5,000 cultivated hectares of rice every year.

So next time your travel to Miami, make room not only for cuban specialities but for paella too.

paella valenciana

paella valenciana



A purple touch in your Kitchen… and beyond


Elena Fernandez

Two weeks ago I crossed Puget Sound and Hood Canal with my family to spend a weekend in Olympic peninsula to catch the last sun rays before rain goes back. Anyway I saw more rain than sun but that´s what makes this place so special.

I wanted to see the end of lavender season at Sequim and to look up into its culinary properties. A few things are more Mediterranean than lavender!

I picked Mike Reichner´s Purple Haze Lavender Farm to visit because in its on line shop I saw a wide array of culinary products. And I was not wrong. Mike is one of the fathers of lavender crops not only in Washington State but in the US. He began to cultivate lavender in 1995 after attending a conference about commercial opportunities for herbs cultivation. “I remember I was the only man,” he jokes.

Sunny Sequim, protected by the Olympic Mountain  rain shadow, and with less than 20 inches of rain per year, has similar weather conditions as the French region of Provence. So Mike thought  it would be worth to take a chance.

Today,  more than 36 growers cultivate lavender in the valley, and an annual festival brings them all together to share their products with visitors. But Purple Haze Lavender Farm keeps on being the pioneer in offering new and innovative products extracted from his 12 acre organic crops.

DSC_0027The visitor will find more than 30 lavender varieties and 15.000 plants in Purple Haze Farm apart from lavender lemonade and ice cream. I tried the lemonade and it was amazing! (see photo) And the smell was… so relaxing! But if you look closer, Mike will show you how every variety has its own characteristics. “For culinary uses you need to pick English lavender, sweeter and more subtle,” he explains. “If you use stronger varieties the flavor would overwhelm the food”.

“The culinary products were the most risky option because people are only used to lavender properties in the Medical and Beauty fields,” says Mike. “I decided to begin with something not to innovative mixing lavender and Herbs de Provence”. Then the best seller came along: the salad dressing.

I know I´m a bit traditional and not too fond in tossing salads with something different from olive oil and vinegar, so I opted for the herbs mix. But  any good foodie find mustard, honey, chocolate and tea, among many products and a recipe brochure too to bring the magic of lavender  home.

I asked Mike If he had worked with other local partners: “Of course, Molly Moon makes its icecream with lavender from our farm, and we work with Cashmere Cider Mill to handcraft our lavender cider”

The farm is open from early May to Labor Day but  now that lavender season is nearly finished you could find Purple Haze products on line and in their Sequim Downtown shop all year round.