Monthly Archives: November 2008

Is there any truth in an infomercial?

I am a firm believer in NOT believing anything I see on an infomercial. Whether it is a super chopping knife or an ab roller or turbo ladder or magical age reversing make-up. I would never buy anything from QVC or by dialing an 800 number I saw on TV. It’s the same reason when someone calls me at the office claiming to be from the Fireman or Police something or other looking for donations I think it’s a scam (which news reports have found it highly likely to be one).

While those commercials are targeted at my wants and needs and are easier to resist by convincing myself they won’t work or I don’t need them, some of those 90-second to 30 minute segments are not so easy to ignore. Instead, I usually turn the channel out of skepticism or pure guilt. I’m thinking of the ones where “for the price of your daily cup of coffee you can make adopt a child” in Africa or Latin America. I have such a strong resistance to being sold something on TV but I never could stop wondering if that money would really make a difference and how much of it would actually reach the child.

Since returning from Mexico this spring I have been reading every book and article I can about the history of Mexico and about the current economic status. The facts about starvation and malnutrition are eye-opening and frightening. Studies estimate that almost 50% of the children in the country are malnourished (and almost as many adults). I’ve heard statistics about malnutrition in other countries but I’ve never really understood how far those effects stretch. There are disturbing pictures of indigenous school children from Mex’s state next to children in private schools in Cuernavaca. The children from rural Morelos (my husband’s state) are visibly shorter and frailer than the middle/upper class children. You can actually see the effects of having not enough food and that disturbed me a lot.

Unlike the US, schools to not provide any food or snacks to the children. When kids show up hungry, with no breakfast they have no energy. They fall asleep in class and don’t learn. If they don’t learn, they are put on the path of only finishing the US equivalent of junior high. In fact, that is all that is required in Mexico which surprised me.

I feel like someday I would like my mission to be finding out a way to make sure every kid that goes to school gets a good breakfast. Maybe by making sure that kids get at least one full meal a day, five days a week, it will give them enough energy to stay awake in class and study. For Mexico to rise in power, technology, and economical status in the world I really believe they need to start out with more focus on education. I tried to figure out the cost to provide each kid with eggs, tortillas, milk, and fruit and guess what it comes out to? The cost of a cup of coffee. I guess I’ve become a believer after all.

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Filed under Mexican culture, Mexico, Minnesotan/American culture

Lead, lead, lead…

Oh yes… I’m talking about the metal here, not the verb. I have a warning for all traveler’s to Mexico who want to bring back some beautiful pottery as a souvenier… Don’t plan on using it to cook! I’ll blame ignorance for this expensive mistake. The thought never crossed either Mex or my mind when we were buying our 80-piece dish set. We were so in love with the pattern and after an hour of walking around and discussing it we decided to purchase the dishes as our big present to ourselves. It wasn’t until I got back to the US and showed them to my mom and a friend that they asked about lead. I had no idea! So after many months of the dishes sitting in boxes I finally found the business card from where we purchased them. Mex called and asked the lady if they used lead in their glaze because I had read online that in the last three years a lot of places had stopped due to health awareness. The lady told Mex they absolutely do not use lead in the glaze and you can even microwave the dishes and cook in them. WRONG!

Just to be sure, I found a place in St. Louis Park that would test a plate for $30. I did it as a formality since I didn’t think the woman in Puebla would lie. I mean it’s not like we would be able to return them anyway! The tester guy called and told me there is indeed lead in our plates and we should NOT heat them in the microwave or cook anything in them and should also not store food in them. Wow. Talk about a sad kick in the gut.

The guy said it would be safe to eat off of them occassionally because food doesn’t sit long enough on the plate between when you serve and when you consume it for any lead to leach out. The problem is if you heat it or chip it or if you let things sit on them overnight in the fridge. Serving dry things like crackers or bruschetta toast will not absorb any lead so I can at least use them at parties and for holiday meals. As long as we don’t use them daily or cook on them there is no real danger. We never planned on using them for actually cooking anyway, just serving, but it is still disappointing.

Lesson learned… thinking of buying pottery to eat off of? DON’T! Even if you ask the people at the store in Mexico they may either lie or not know the truth themselves (I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt). Just buy pottery with decoration in mind! At least we have a beautiful set of special occassion dishes and apparently a really, really expensive kitchen/dining room decoration. Now we need to find a hutch cupboard to display them in I guess!

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