Washington State Magazine

Winter 2009 cover


Winter 2009

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In This Issue...

Features

How We Eat Is What We Are :: In the 1960s, 24.3 percent of Americans were overweight. Now, over 60 percent of us are. Even though other countries are hot on our heels, we are still the plumpest folk in the world. Does it matter? by Tim Steury

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Vintage food advertisements }

Paper Cuts :: Not that many years ago Washington's legislature was covered by more than 30 journalists from around the state. Now that number is eight. The Seattle Times no longer has a bureau on the east side of Lake Washington, and a print Post-Intelligencer no longer exists. Who will give us information and investigation when the papers have all gone? by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Map: Changes in Washington state newspapers: An interactive map of layoffs, closures, and re-invention of news sources in Washington state. }

Old News :: Just as several of Washington's newspapers have vanished from the landscape, librarians and volunteers are bringing our state's near-forgotten newspapers to light.

Talking Turkey :: As you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, you might like to know that turkey farming in North America has been around a lot longer than you thought. New genetic tools applied to a common turkey byproduct have given turkey afficionados a lot more to think about. by Cherie Winner

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Galleries: Heritage turkeys and Turkey Feathers }

ESSAY

Life After Newspapers :: It's a whole new cyberworld out there, and I'm the dinosaur dude who's trying to figure out where to go from here. by Jim Moore '78

Panoramas

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Photographs of Olympia Avenue, WSU's new sustainable residence hall }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Gallery: Stormwater project by Spokane County Extension }

Departments

:: FIRST WORDS: Cultivated thought

:: LETTERS

:: SHORT SUBJECT: Track to the future

:: SPORTS: Doubling back

:: IN SEASON: Clams

:: LAST WORDS: Grover Krantz (1931-2002) and Clyde

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE—Video: Acres of Clams }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE: Design presentations from the “Powering the Palouse” symposium }

Tracking

Cover photo: Railroad tracks through the basalt cliffs at Palouse Falls State Park. Photo by David Hogan.

First Words

Cultivated thought

by | © Washington State University

Cultivated thought : : Near the end of an otherwise lackluster speech to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in September 1859, Abraham Lincoln suddenly shifted gears heading into his peroration.

Having compared two conflicting theories of labor, he continued, “This leads to the further reflection, that no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture.”

Although my son would likely question the intellectual appeal of spreading manure, Lincoln’s observation resonates, at least in moments when the laborer/scholar is not exhausted.

Lincoln went on to suggest what fields might provide food for agricultural contemplation. Chemistry assists in the analysis of soils—and in the selection of manures for fertilization. Botany is of obvious assistance in dealing with any crop. And had the field existed at the time, Lincoln certainly would have mentioned nutrition. For surely, as farmer/philosopher Wendell Berry has observed, “Eating is an agricultural act.”

Within the burgeoning genre of food commentary, it has become a matter of course to bash, in many cases rightly so, the status quo of food production, agricultural practices, and imposed taste. But in the case of nutrition science, the criticism has at times become confused, conflating disparate, and often conflicting, voices and disciplines into the conspiratorial specter labeled by one critic “nutritionism,” suggesting a plot to enrich food corporations and make us fat.

Michelle McGuire and Kathy Beerman, WSU nutrition professors and authors of a nutrition textbook recently released in its second edition, shrug off such generalizations.

I suggest that people’s anxiety about food might lead them to turn on nutritionists, who seem always to be changing their minds. One day, for example, butter’s bad for you. The next, it’s fine.

That’s the nature of science, says McGuire. There is no perfect experiment that’s going to answer every question. “That’s not how science works.”

Beerman concurs. “Like other sciences, nutrition evolves.” Sometimes information is overstated or simplistic, whether of necessity or through interpretation in the media. “I think that’s one of the reasons you see inconsistencies and contradictions.

“But another part of it is if we don’t fully understand something, it might be better to give the public some guidance rather than no guidance. If we didn’t revise our recommendations, we’d still be saying margarine, no butter.”

Driven by a complex mix of environmental, ethical, and nutritional concerns as well as ideology and nostalgia, food issues, like so much else these days, have become maddeningly polarized. Perhaps we’ll never agree on how we assess the quality of our food.

But McGuire and Beerman’s textbook represents the best of the University’s mission, providing a cool-headed, scholarly assessment of the current state of the science, a solid and provocative base for Lincoln’s cultivated thought.

Tim Steury, Editor

For more on McGuire and Beerman’s text, Nutritional Sciences, visit wsm.wsu.edu/discovery.

Categories: Agriculture, Food | Tags: Nutrition

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