Our number one priority on our homesteads is to pay attention to the care of everything and everyone on it. Proper maintenance is paramount to the success of our endeavors.

Keeping the livestock clean, housed and fed, the gardens weeded and tended, the tools clean and serviced and our family clean, housed, fed, tended and serviced all take a toll on the most important asset we’ve got – ourselves.

That some countries have a better history of people living healthy and well into deep senior citizenship is no surprise. So I looked up the list of Countries with the Highest Longevity (Figures are from the 2009 CIA Factbook and from the 2006 revision of the United Nations World Population Prospects report, for the period 2005-2010) with the intent of waltzing through the meadows of said countries 10 through 1 on the list, collecting healthy rural facts along the way.

But when I delved into the reasons for these people living a long time, the things I assumed I’d find were sometimes not there. And things I’d never thought to string together became common threads in the quilt of longevity – but they did turn out to be things we can all do or adapt our lives to include.

A lot of these places are heavily urban, and there’s not a shared climate between most of them. What they do have in common with each other, and more specifically, what they do NOT have in common with the United States is the following:

• A lack of availability of big box stores and fast food joints

• A preference for whole, real foods instead of artificially lowered fats, sugars and calories

• Access to free or very low cost health care that’s considered a right by their governments

The yardsticks I used for big box stores and fast food were Walmart and McDonalds.

I have nothing personal against either one of these businesses, and this is not an article about whether or not Walmart is killing our small towns or pumping money into them, whether McDonalds teaches young people about work ethic or is causing them to be diabetic fat people, and for sure it’s not a debate on Universal Government Mandated Health Care.

I’m just saying…

So, pack your virtual bags and come along with me to places where people live long and prosper – I’ve included a tasty snack from each country for provisions and thanks to the magic of imagination, I promise to have you back by feeding time…

10. Israel

First on our trip, and number 10 on our list, is Israel. I don’t know why I was so surprised about that, but I was. I guess all those bible stories having to do with deserts and Dead Seas and whatnot made me think that Israel would be kind of a difficult place to live a long time.

However, Israelites may expect to live to a ripe 80 years, and there are 7,411,000 Israelites who inhabit their land at the rate of 839 per square mile.

The topography of Israel is a lot more varied than I had thought – from mountains that are almost always covered in snow, to the steaming summer coastal cities, and considering the lack of heavy rainfall, it’s a wonder that fully 20% of the land is given to agriculture. Thanks to intensive development and irrigation, Israel manages to be not only totally self-sufficient in the way of farm products, but it’s an exporter of many fruits, vegetables, flowers and sheep’s milk.

The cuisine of Israel is diverse and changing constantly as the population, mostly Jewish, bring new eating habits and ideas from all over the world. Traditional foods from the Jewish faith along with recipes that incorporate the produce that’s now grown there make for fine eating in the Land of Milk and Honey.

Getting out our societal yardsticks out we find that there are zero Wal-marts in Israel, and though there are 131 McDonalds, that’s only 1 per 56,752 people, over double that of the U.S. where the number is 1 McDonalds for every 22,996 people.

Health care in Israel is both universal and compulsory, and all citizens receive the same Uniform Benefits Package, no matter their financial means. Israel’s quality of health care ranked 28th worldwide in 2000, the last year available for these figures.

I know we’ve just started out, but I’m feeling the need for a little snack. You?

Sweet Raisin Challah Bread

1 1/2 cups dark or yellow raisins, plumped (soaked in water)

3/4 cups warm water

2 tablespoons yeast

pinch sugar approx, 1/4 teaspoon

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup honey

3 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup oil

3 eggs

2 egg yolks

6-7 cups flour

Egg wash:

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons sugar

1 egg

1 yolk

In a large bowl stir together the yeast, water, and pinch of sugar. Let stand five minutes to allow yeast to swell and dissolve.

Briskly stir in remaining sugar, honey, and salt. Then add oil, eggs, yolks and about five cups of the flour. Stir and let stand 10-20 minutes to absorb flour. Knead, by hand or with a dough hook, adding remaining flour as needed to make a soft and elastic dough (about 10-12 minutes). Dough should leave sides of the bowl. If it is sticky, add small amounts of flour until dough is soft but no longer sticks.

Let dough rest on a lightly floured board ten minutes, then flatten and press in raisins as evenly as possible into the dough, folding dough over raisins to “tuck” them in. Place dough in a greased bowl and either cover with greased plastic wrap and a damp tea towel or cover with a damp tea towel and place entire bowl inside a large plastic bag. Let rise until doubled and puffy looking, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.

(If you are doing an overnight, cool rise, place dough in a large, lightly greased bowl and insert this in a large plastic bag. Refrigerate overnight. If you see the bread rising too quickly, open the bag, deflate dough, and reseal. Next day, allow dough to warm up then gently deflate and proceed.)

Divide dough in three sections. Shape to each to a round ball.

Place on cornmeal dusted baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together egg glaze ingredients. Brush loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let rise until puffy, around 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake bread 12 minutes then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 25 minutes or until bread is evenly browned.

Can be frozen baked or unbaked. If freezing unbaked, let bread rise slowly, overnight in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before baking.
(from JewishRecipes.org)

Fortified, we travel north to Europe, where we’ll spend the next three stops.

9. Switzerland

© 2009 TripAdvisor LLC All rights reserved, used with permission

Ahh, Switzerland… Little Heidi yodeling to her goats up in the mountains without a care in the world or another soul in sight, except with 7,739,100 people inhabiting the country at a rate of 477 per square mile, it seems a little more crowded than that. Switzerland devotes one third of its land to agriculture, which is comprised mainly of dairies and vineyards.

The people of Switzerland enjoy a temperate climate with four distinct seasons – winters being harsher up in the mountains and foggier down in the valleys.

There’s not a Wal-mart in sight, and a mere 119 McDonalds – one for every 65,034 people.

The Swiss are covered by compulsory universal health care, which is rated at number 20 in the world, and the average Swiss citizen can expect to live to age 80.

The cuisine of Switzerland is an amalgamation of its neighbors, with an emphasis on local specialties: cheeses, wines, and of course, world famous chocolates.

I’m feeling like a little comfort food… maybe some macaroni and cheese, or some hot buttered potatoes, or a big bowl of warm applesauce.

In a stroke of pure genius, the Swiss have combined all three. This AND chocolate? How could life get any better?

Aelplermagaronen (Älpler Macaroni)

Ingredients for four people:

1lb medium sized potatoes (suitable for boiling)

½ lb macaroni

½ strong cheese, grated (e.g. Appenzeller)

2 fluid oz cream

1 fluid oz milk

2 large onions

1-2 cloves garlic

butter greasing the pan

salt

flour for sprinkling

clarified butter for frying

Oven temperature: c 310 degrees

Method:
1. Peel the potatoes and cut into cubes (slightly smaller than the macaroni, so that they both cook in the same time).
2. Cook macaroni and potatoes together in lightly salted water until the macaroni are “al dente”. Drain well.
3. Grease an oven-proof baking dish, and lay in it alternate layers of the potato/macaroni mixture and the grated cheese
4. Boil up the cream and milk and pour them over the dish.
5. Put the dish in the middle of the preheated oven, and leave for around 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted but not changed color.
6. Meanwhile slice the onions into thin rings and chop the garlic finely. Sprinkle with flour, and fry until golden in the butter, turning constantly. Allow to drain on kitchen paper, and arrange over the macaroni.

Tip: Use the thickest possible macaroni for this dish, which remain “al dente” even after long cooking.

This dish is served with applesauce or “Ankestückli”:
Ingredients:

1 ½ lb sour apples

1oz butter

2 fluid oz apple juice or white wine

sugar

Method:
1. Peel and slice apples, removing the cores.
2. Heat the butter in a skillet and sauté the apples briefly
3. Sprinkle sugar over them to lightly caramelize them
4. Add juice or wine, allow to cook gently until all the liquid is absorbed
5. Serve hot with the Aelplermagronen
(From SwissRoots.com)

8. Sweden

© 2009 TripAdvisor LLC All rights reserved, used with permission

Traveling still northward, all the way to Scandinavia, we come to Sweden, 15% of which is north of the Arctic Circle. All the agricultural land, and most of the 9,263,872 people, are in the southern part of the country. Only 7% of the land is given to agriculture, and the main products are poultry, pork, grains and furs – mainly mink. Population is 53 per square mile, although most folks are clustered together for warmth at the southern end of the country, south of the Arctic Circle and snow-covered forestlands.

No Wal-marts in Sweden, and 227 McDonalds serving 40,810 patrons per restaurant.

Sweden is known for the excellence of its universal health care system with low infant mortality and a life expectancy of 80. Sweden is rated 23rd in the world for quality of care.

Sweden’s cuisine mimics the other Scandinavian countries’ with an emphasis on fish, and hearty menus that are not highly spiced. Although the typical non-Swede can’t think of “Swedish” without the word “Meatballs” after it, the recipe I’ve included isn’t the typical cream sauced variety, but it does warm the tootsies before our next stop on our quest for long living.

Meatball Stew with Apples

Ingredients:

30-40 meatballs (recipe below), cooked

3 apples

4 potatoes

2 c white cabbage

2 Tbsp butter

1 tsp sugar

1 bouillon cube

1 1/4 c cider

allspice, salt to taste

Directions:
Peel potatoes. Slice roughly into bite-sized pieces. Cut cabbage into bite-sized pieces.

Peel, core apples, cut into bite-sized segments.

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add potatoes, cabbage. Add sugar, and continue heating until mixture starts to brown. Add apple. Add cider and bouillon cube. Add salt, allspice, and cook 5 minutes.

When potatoes are fork tender, add cooked meatballs. Heat five minutes or until everything is piping hot.

Serve with crispbread. (from Gretchen’s Cookbook)

Meatballs, Ikea Style (Köttbullar)

Ingredients:

8 oz. ground beef

8 oz. ground pork

1 egg

3/4-1 1/4 c milk

2 1/2 Tbsp onion, finely chopped

1/4 c fine breadcrumbs (unseasoned)

2 cold boiled potatoes

4-5 Tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp allspice

Directions:
In a skillet, melt 2 Tbsp butter, heating until melted and just starting to brown. Add onion to skillet, sauté until onion is golden.

Mash potatoes.

To the bread crumbs, add 2 Tbsp milk to moisten.

In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, and egg. Add onion, mashed potatoes, and moistened breadcrumbs. Add spices (salt, pepper, allspice). Add remaining milk a little at a time; stop before the mixture gets gloppy. If the meat mixture gets too gooey to form nice, neat meatballs, add a more breadcrumbs.

Use a pair of spoons rinsed in water and shape the meat mixture into small round balls.

In a large skillet, heat remaining butter over medium heat. Add meatballs to skillet, being careful not to crowd the pan. Shake periodically so that the meatballs don’t develop flat spots. Cook until meatballs are done through.

7. France

© 2009 TripAdvisor LLC All rights reserved, used with permission

Wait… France? Where everyone smokes, drinks wine all day and eats gargantuan amounts of calories in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower?

Yep, thanks to large tracts of fertile land (over a third of the land is given to agriculture), modern methods of farming and government subsidies, France is the largest exporter of agricultural products in Europe – exporting wheat, poultry, dairy products and beef.

With a population of 65,073,482 taking up 297 per square mile, the French look forward to a life expectancy of 80 – and do so with the help of the number one rated health care system in the world. A Universal government-run program, care is totally free for those with chronic diseases like cancer and AIDS.

There’s no such thing as Le Walmart, but they do have 857 McDonalds (one for every 75,931 people). I guess that’s to be expected in the land of the French Fry (I know, they’re not really French, but it had to be said).

French cuisine has been famous for centuries, but has evolved from the very complex, heavy and cumbersome Haute Cuisine of the past into Nouvelle Cuisine, emphasizing fresh foods prepared simply and beautifully.

The following recipe shows a very simple but delicious use of common ingredients.

Fast Potful Auvergnate
(potee auvergnate)

If cooking for 4 people, take: 600 gr auvergne ham (it is possible to use unsliced bacon or ham of any origin),4 country hunter’s sausage (thin smoked stiff-textured sausages), 200 gr beef broth, 400 gr cabbage, 2 medium carrots or turnips, 2 onions, 1 clove of garlic, some lard, 30-40 gr olive oil, half of a glass of dry red wine, black pepper and other spices to your liking, shallot or leek or green (spring) onion to serve ready meal.

Cut ham in pieces 1/2 inch thick and pepper them. Brown the pieces on a frying pan. If the ham is way over lean, melt some lard first. If your pan is rather large, it’s possible browning carrots, turnips and onion in the same simultaneously. When ready, dice the pieces of ham. While frying, cut cabbage into bite size sections. Layer in the pot cabbage, dices of ham, other ingredients from the pot, shredded garlic and other spices, and hunter’s sausages cut in slices 1/3 inch thick. Pour broth in, and stew on medium fire under cover. On cabbage semi-readiness, pour in olive oil and wine. Few last minutes, cook with no cover. Serve ready meal with green onion. Incredibly fast! (from Easy French Recipes)

6. Canada

© 2009 TripAdvisor LLC All rights reserved, used with permission

Our neighbor to the North, that big moose-filled expanse between us and Alaska, Canada comes in number 6, leaving the U.S. of A. – at number 35 – in the proverbial dust.

Canada is the world’s second largest country by total area, and the Canadian/United States border is the world’s longest.

Our Canadian friends, all 338,810,000 of them, can look forward to 81 years of roaming the vast wilderness that they inhabit at the rate of only EIGHT souls per square mile. A full 52% of Canadian lands is used for harvesting something, although a lot of that is timber. Other major crops are wheat, canola, and other grains.

The health care system in Canada is publicly funded and mostly free at point of use. The quality of care is regulated by government standards and it works beautifully enough to garner number 30 worldwide in excellence.

With that long border with America, it’s not surprising that Canada is home to 312 Wal-marts (one for every 108,365 residents – still far behind our 4,300 Wal-marts) and 1,400 McDonalds (one for every 24,150 – alarmingly close to the American 1/22,996, but our larger population gives us 13,381 McDonalds restaurants to choose from).

Canadian cuisine is varied with a large amount of British, American and French influence. The ingredients in common throughout every region include an emphasis on baked goods, wild game, home made dishes and wholesome foods.

One source stated that the main parameter for determining whether or not a food is considered “Canadian” is the scarcity of it in the United States.

I just realized that we’re almost halfway through our list of countries to visit and we’ve yet to have dessert! That must be remedied, and what better way to celebrate dessert than with a Canadian staple:

The Butter Tart

Prep Time: 30 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
Pastry

2 cups flour

1 cup shortening

teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 tablespoons cold water

Filling

1 egg

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup raisins (optional, or can be replaced with chopped pecans or walnuts)

Preparation:
Pastry:

Blend the shortening and the flour with a pastry cutter, or two knives, until you’ve created a uniform mixture that is crumbly and about the size of frozen peas.

In a separate bowl, mix 1 egg, 1 tbsp white vinegar and 2 tbsp cold water. Add to shortening and flour mixture.

Mix all ingredients together, but only until just mixed and no more.

The key to flaky pastry is not to over-handle the dough.

For ease of handling, make a ball of the dough, wrap in cellophane and place in freezer for 10-15 mins. Roll out dough onto floured surface to about the thickness of a CD case.

Using either a cookie cutter or something like a jar lid, cut out circles from the dough. Press dough circles into a muffin pan.

Filling

In another bowl, mix well corn syrup, brown sugar, melted butter and egg. Add vanilla and stir in raisins.

Spoon filling into pastry shell to just below the rim.

Bake at 400 for about 10 mins until golden brown.

Makes about a dozen tarts. (from About.com)

 

5. Australia

© 2009 TripAdvisor LLC All rights reserved, used with permission

Big. Big and with a lot of empty uninhabited areas. Both Canada and Australia have this going for them, but other than that, they’re pretty much a world apart.

Oh, wait. They ARE a world apart!

Even though Australia is home to 22,010,766 people, it’s even less densely populated than Canada – only 7 persons per square mile – and Australia claims 62% of their land for agriculture, although a major portion of that is graze-land. Cattle, wheat, dairy products and wool are all exported from this wondrous land that’s mostly arid, but also includes tropical rainforests, and many indigenous creatures and plants found nowhere else on earth.

Australians can’t shop at the Walmart, but they do have 701 McDonalds to choose from – one for every 31,399 Aussies.

Australians’ life expectancy is 81 years and their health care system is rated number 32 in the world. Health care services in Australia are universal, with free access to hospital treatment and subsidized out-of-hospital treatments.

Australian cuisine is both global and local, incorporating items brought along with its immigrants and integrating the spice – like qualities of native plants – forming the basis of its own unique cuisine.

I’m not entirely sure what a yabbie is, but they look suspiciously like shrimp in the photo, so that’s what I’d use for this recipe.

Yabbies on Green Polenta

30 cooked and shelled yabbies

3c polenta (cornmeal)

1c parmesan cheese

1c chopped fresh spinach

1/2c olive oil

salt to taste

water

Shell the yabbies and set aside.

Bring 8 cups lightly salted water to a boil; pour in polenta stirring constantly till smooth.

Add cheese and cook for 30 minutes- adding water if necessary.

Add spinach last, right before serving. Dish up into bowls, add yabbies and drizzle with olive oil. (from Mauritius Australia Connection)

4. San Marino

The Most Serene Republic of San Marino. Seriously. That’s its name, and it’s surrounded entirely by Italy. Sort of like if Kansas decided to become a sovereign nation. At a population of 29,973, San Marino is the smallest country in the Council of Europe, but because of its small size, there are 1,275 people per square mile.

Unbelievably, 17% of this tiny gem of a country is agricultural, with the main exports being cheese and wine.

There’s neither Wal-mart nor McDonalds in San Marino – and that’s just as well. The Wal-mart smiley face and Ronald McDonald would do nothing for the Serene Ambiance.

Health care is government-run universal health care, rated at number 3 in the world, and San Marinans look forward to 81 years in their emerald pocket of a country.

The cuisine is heavily influenced by Italy, with a few local variations – including this one:

Potato Gnocchi Bolognese

Ingredients:

1/2 lb Diced pancetta

2 lb Ground veal

1 Onion, minced

1 Carrot, minced

1 rib Celery, minced

1 cup White wine

1/2 qt Heavy cream

2 cups Crushed tomatoes

1 clove Minced garlic

Nutmeg to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

For the Bolognese:
1. Sauté the pancetta in a heavy bottomed rondeau then add the veal and the white wine.
2. Add the mirepoix, tomatoes, and the heavy cream.
3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the volume reduce by 1/3.
4. Add the nutmeg and the garlic.

For the Gnocchi:
1. Potato Gnocchi: Steam 3 potatoes, let rest, and rice the peeled potatoes when tender, in a bowl, mix with 1/2 cup milk, 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, I tsp salt and 1 cup flour. After a ball is formed, add 2 eggs, 1 at a time.
2. Form the Gnocchi: Roll the dough into 3/4 inch ropes 1 foot long. Sprinkle with flour and cut the dough into 1/2 inch lengths. Place on a floured parchment paper lined sheet tray and freeze.
3. Cook the Gnocchi: Drop the gnocchi into boiling salted water. They are done when they just begin to float. Toss with a sauce of choice.
(from FoodReference.com)

3. Singapore

It’s a country, AND a city. Actually, it’s 63 islands all strung together to make a country. Singapore’s as tropical as a place can be, and as crowded as could be imagined – the population of 4,987,600 are packed in pretty snugly at 17,275 per square mile. Most of the land is rainforest that’s been converted to urban jungle, and all but a tiny fraction of the food must be imported. They do have an agricultural export industry based on orchids and tropical fish – things that thrive there naturally and can be farmed intensively in small areas.

Singaporeans’ life expectancy is 81 years old, and they enjoy an efficient and widespread system of government-run health care, rated number 6 worldwide.

With much of Singapore given to urban pursuits and international business, the cuisine is a veritable rainbow of gastronomical delights – blending Chinese, Indian, Malay and Tamil cuisines. All these diets favor natural fresh fruits and vegetables, more fish than red meat, and lots and lots of spice.

The worldliness of Singapore has brought some bad habits along with it; including McDonalds as an eating choice – there are 121 Golden Arches in Singapore- one for every 41,219 Singaporeans.

Food may be gotten on the run from street vendors, and one of the most popular dishes for a quick working lunch is:

Hainanese Chicken

For Chicken:

one whole Chicken

salt

spring Onion

pandan leaves

ginger

For rice:

ginger

garlic

cinammon

cloves

star anise

chicken broth

pandan leaves

salt

Garnish:

light soy sauce

sesame oil

cucumber

tomatoes (optional)

coriander (optional)

lettuce (optional)

pineapple (optional)

Chili sauce:

fresh chillies

ginger

garlic

vinegar

fish sauce

sugar

sweet soy sauce (ready as it is)

Directions:Boil water with spring Onion, ginger and pandan leaves, put in Chicken and cook till done, do not over cook. briefly dip in cold water and set aside to cool. Keep broth heated.

Wash rice and drain. Finely shred ginger and garlic, fry in oil with cloves, cinammon and star anise till fragrant, add in rice and fry for several minutes. Transfer into rice cooker, add chicken broth, pinch of salt, pandan leaves and start cooking.

Put all chili sauce ingredient in a mixer and grind till fine.

Slice and arrange tomatoes and cucumbers on a big plate, cut Chicken into small pieces and put on top. Splash some light soya sauce and sesame oil over, throw a bunch of coriander on top. Next, Put broth in a bowl with lettuce, get ready chili sauce and sweet soya sauce. Serve rice on a plate with spoon and folk.
(from Recipes Wiki)

2. Japan

Not surprisingly, to me anyway, Japan comes in a solid number 2 in the ratings for longevity. Long known for healthy lifestyles and attitudes, Japan is a wildly beautiful country that’s over 80% mountains and forests.

There are 127,590,000 Japanese, and though that averages out to 874 per square mile, most of the population lives in the miniscule 7% of urban areas.

Agriculture in Japan comprises 13% of its area, and faces challenges due to growing demand and simultaneous loss of arable land – though remaining one of the world leaders in coastal fishery exports, Japan struggles to supply itself with land-based crops.

Health care in Japan is administered by local governments and provides equality of access to all while allowing free choice of caregivers. This system is rated number 10 worldwide, and the average Japanese citizen’s life expectancy is 82 years old.

The recent history of business doings between the U.S. and Japan has included the infiltration of Walmart to the tune of 371 stores in Japan (mainly buy-outs of Japanese chains), although the Walmart magic has not been readily accepted over there and the big-box is struggling to maintain its foothold. McDonalds is faring better, with 3,598 restaurants – one for every 35,461 residents, and part of its success is the attempts made to adjust its menu to fit the people while still holding high the beacon of the Big Mac.

Japanese cuisine has long been admired and held up as a good example for the rest of the planet – stressing a lot more vegetative matter than meat products; lots of fiber and few calories and cholesterol. Beautiful, simple food prepared and presented with flourish is a treat for the eye and the tummy.

Egg Drop Soup (Tamago Toji)

Ingredients

3 cups stock (dashi is preferable, otherwise Chicken or vegetable is fine)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

2-3 fresh Mushrooms (optional)

1 whole beaten egg

2-3 stalks trefoil or coriander, chopped or

1/2 tablespoon chives, chopped (optional)

szechwan pepper (sansho)

Directions: Heat stock in a saucepan and stir in salt and soy sauce.

If using Mushrooms, wash and slice thinly and add to the stock.

Simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Bring soup to a boil and with a ladle or chopsticks stir the soup clockwise.

Pour in the beaten egg, remove the soup from the heat and stir counterclockwise.

If using add trefoil/coriander/chives, cover pot for 30-40 seconds then uncover and add pepper. Serve immediately.

If you cannot find the sansho/Szechwan peppercorns, I imagine a pinch of standard black pepper (or a blend, which often contain sansho/Szechwan peppercorns) will do.
(from Recipes Wiki)

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – the country whose citizens enjoy the longest life expectancy on the Planet Earth – a little place that frankly, I’d never heard of:

1. Andorra

Andorra’s a teeny little place up in the Pyrenees Mountains and bordered by France and Spain. It’s the 6th smallest nation in Europe and home to 84,484 Andorrans, who are spread out at the rate of 466 per square mile.

Being so high up, the climate is snowier in winter than its neighbors, but they enjoy a cooler summer. The sun shines an average of 300 days per year on Andorra.

Only 2% of the land is arable, and much of that is used for the main export: tobacco.

Most food is imported, although family gardens and small herds of sheep are common. The typical Andorran diet consists of fresh foods prepared with attention paid to detail and presentation, similar to its neighbors.

Health care is provided by a government-run social security system, rated number 4 in the world, and our Andorran friends can expect to live a full 82 years.

There’s neither Walmart nor McDonalds to be had in this tiny country, and, like San Marino, for that I’m relieved.

Our last food offering of the day is something that could be literally picked out of the kitchen garden, and seems a good thing to be munching on while we’re summing this all up.

Andorran Catalan Spinach Salad

Serves 4

2 bunches spinach, chopped and blanched

2 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced

1/3 c golden raisins

1/3 c pine nuts or slivered almonds

Wash, chop and blanch the spinach. Warm the oil and cook the garlic till golden. Add the raisins and nuts, cooking till the raisins are plump. Place spinach in a bowl and top with the garlic, raisin, and nut mixture.
(from Curiosity Killed the Cook)

So, what have we learned today?

Are we as homesteaders really on the wrong track if we want to live a long time?

Do we need to abandon our farms and move to the city?

Give up our veggie gardens and our goats in favor of tobacco and tropical fish?

Flummoxed, I was, for just a split second after taking in all the non-rural facts and figures, for it was obvious that it’s not so much a “where” we live our lives as “how”.

And that should be reassuring to those of us still working to attain rurality and a sobering reminder for those of us already “here”.

Being surrounded by miles of Nature will do our families no good if there’s still Twinkies in the pantry and we make a weekly (or more often) run thru the Golden Arches’ drive-thru after going to the feed store.

Taking care of ourselves and our loved ones through attention to health care – not just sick care – is paramount.

Making sure what goes into our tummies is real food, consumed in a form identical to its original form or as close to it as possible, is vital.
The secrets to long life are not really secret at all: be a part of a society that cares for all its members unconditionally, and fuel yourselves and your family with things that are organic in nature- because we are organic-based machines.

Oh…. and my fellow Americans? It wouldn’t hurt us any to step away from the deep-fried bacon.

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