Editor's note: Dr. Aaron E. Carroll is an associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the director of the university's Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research. He blogs about health policy at The Incidental Economist and tweets at @aaronecarroll.
I like to joke that the difference between other places I've lived and Indiana is that seeing a goat or a chicken used to be a field trip; now it's my commute. Humor aside, though, one of the perks of living much closer to farmland is the access that we have to amazingly fresh food. I haven't always been the healthiest of eaters, but in recent years that has changed. Two summers ago, we participated in a "farm share," where every week we would get a box of organically raised produce.
It's not an understatement to say that this completely redefined the eating habits of my family. We went from a meat-heavy diet to a much more vegetable-oriented one. My wife became much more concerned with how our food was raised and processed. Before long, she was near-obsessed with whether our food was "organic."
In cooking, the process of clarification entails straining out extraneous muck from liquids so that they might be pure, clear and ideal for consumption. With this series on food terminology and issues we're attempting to do the same.
Organic: it's a word that gets bandied and bashed around a lot. Plenty of folks believe it's synonymous with "healthy," while others think it's just an excuse for companies to vacuum the last of the cash from your wallet. Politics aside, what does the term actually mean?
On any given weekend, Kathy Murray can be found ensconced in her kitchen, perfecting her sourdough bread, freezing a week's worth of meals made from "as close to the earth as possible" ingredients and cooking up fresh fish and produce from her local farmers market near Pocantico Hills, New York. She did not learn this at home.
Like millions of her fellow baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964, Murray was raised by parents who had come of age in an era where food was often bland, not always abundant, certainly not a vehicle for pleasure and frequently packaged for convenience. While they were grateful for the solid, if uninspired meals their mothers put on the table, boomers hungered for more. Murray, and many like her, took matters into their own hands and reclaimed the kitchen as a source of joy, relaxation, creativity and, increasingly, health.
Chocolate is one of life's greatest pleasures, but for the children working in slavery conditions in cacao fields across West Africa's Ivory Coast, the reality behind it is anything but sweet.
Some 70 to 75 percent of the world's cocoa beans are grown on small farms in West Africa, including the Ivory Coast, according to the World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative. The CNN Freedom Project reports that in the Ivory Coast alone, there are an estimated 200,000 children working the fields, many against their will, to satisfy the world's hunger for chocolate.
The average American eats around 11 pounds of chocolate each year, and the weeks leading up to Easter show the second biggest United States sales spike of the year next to Halloween - 71 million pounds according to a 2009 Neilsen report. A recent press release from Kraft claims that worldwide, more consumers purchase chocolate during Easter than any other season.
So how does a chocolate lover ensure that the treats filling their family's Easter baskets are not supporting a life of slavery for a child half a world away?
Visit Eatocracy’s new home
Don't miss a single new story. Visit us at our (temporary) new home on CNN.com