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April 2001


Since I'm writing this in the week just before our Great American Meat-Out event, I naturally can't report on how it went, but only that plans are all finalized and we're ready to go.

The news about our monthly potlucks is that we are now implementing the plan to have small presentations on various topics at each potluck, and to publicize them better and with the topic information included. We also have continued to investigate having some of our potlucks on "neutral ground" (i.e. places more public and less private than people's homes), in the hope that this might help more newly-interested people feel comfortable showing up at potlucks for a first time. One possibility that we're looking into is the newly-refurbished Friends Meeting House in Riverwest area.

Please note again that our potlucks are now generally early in the month (which is why I'm now writing this before the month's tail-end as I used to do), and that the April potluck is actually on the first of the month this time.

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National Public Radio reporter: "What's the secret to a long life?"

Chinese fortune-teller: "Eat your vegetables."

reported 3/12/01

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"In my view, no chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein."

-- T. Colin Campbell, Director, the China Health Project

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Sunday, April 1, 6 PM, regular potluck at Pat O'Neill's house, 2431 N. Bartlett, north of North Ave., 1 block west of N. Oakland. 964-9759. Topic is osteoporosis.

Sunday, May 5, 6 PM, regular potluck. If someone volunteered to host this one, I sure don't have a note of it. Please call 962-2703! Topic will be a veggie-burger tasting.

Sunday, June 3, 6 PM, regular potluck. We definitely need a host for this one; call 962-2703 to volunteer. Topic will be non-dairy milks.

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Macrobiotic potluck

The next macrobiotic potluck will probably be on April 29, and will probably also be at Pat O'Neill's house, 2431 N. Bartlett. Call 964-9759 for details and confirmation.

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Not only did McDonald's corporation report slumping sales in Europe and a first quarter whose profits were the same as last year (when investors were expecting steady growth), but in the same mid-March week McD announced that it will begin on its own to require that its suppliers actually follow the generally disregarded U.S. federal rules which ban the feeding of ground-up mammal parts to cattle in the hope of preventing mad cow disease here. Other follow-up on last month's reports about mad cow disease and its human form is news about Brazilians' wrath at Canada after the Canadian government banned imports of Brazilian beef due to concern about its safety.

But the big animal-food news in the past month was the hoof-and-mouth disease outbreak, which started in Britain and has spread (or is feared to be spreading) to Europe. This one poses no health danger to humans at all quite the contrary if it reduces meat consumption. But the disease, which rarely kills the hoofed mammals it attacks but spreads very readily and weakens and emaciates its victims so as to make them unfit for sale, is wreaking severe havoc with the meat-animal industry of Europe, as various countries banned imports of meat and meat animals from other countries, slaughterhouses were closed (to prevent the transporting of animals from spreading the disease) and as hundreds of thousands of animals which might have come in contact with the disease were killed and cremated on their home farms in the attempt (so far not quite successful) to stop the disease's spread. Those of us who have no concerns about the availability or price of meat could sit back and enjoy the show if it weren't for the innocent victims: wild hoofed animals like deer are also susceptible, as are bed-and-breakfast owners who normally earn their living from the hikers who are now barred from rural footpaths, not to mention family farmers just trying to carry on the life their parents left them, and the slaughtered animals themselves. On the other hand, the meat industry of Europe may never fully recover from its recent blows, and another fraction of the population might now start to explore eating a bit lower on the food chain.

If you're trying to avoid genetically modified foods, cross Kellogg's brands off your list of things to buy, as well as Kellogg's subsidiary Morningstar Farms: the banned-for-humans Starlink GMO corn was found in their products, as has GMO soy.

Then there are truly strange manifestations, such as a new book of which I saw a review, entitled Health Food Junkies, the thesis of which seems to be that people who spend too much effort to eat healthily are sickos. The authors name the obsession with eating healthily "orthorexia nervosa" and apparently contend that people who give up foods they enjoy because they can or do make one physically sick must be emotionally sick instead, and need help to overcome their problem. The NY Times reviewer states that the authors do not actually put down a healthy diet, but do suggest that people become seduced by such righteous eating patterns as lacto-ovo-vegetarianism or food-allergy elimination, becoming obsessed and losing their sense of proportion. Anyone want to read and review this book for us?

Recognition continues to grow that plant foods are good for us in complex rather than simple ways. For example, we used to think that vitamin A, either from beta-carotene in food or as a supplement, ensured good vision. But a recent Jane Brody column reported on newer understanding that at various times in life vitamin C, two carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin), and the fatty acid DHA also play roles. DHA needs to be supplied in late pregnancy and the newborn period for optimum eyesight development (though Brody only lists fish and supplements as sources of it) while lutein and zeaxanthin, which apparently protect against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, are sourced entirely from vegetables, especially the dark green leafies but also peas and zucchini. On a similar note, a tidbit in Delicious! magazine listed bone-building nutrients as including magnesium, potassium, zinc, boron, manganese, and vitamins A,C,D, and K as well as calcium meaning that for our bones' health we should be eating whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and sunflower seeds (as well as eating soy and avoiding meat and getting some sun on our faces while doing weight-bearing exercise). Interestingly, a Prevention magazine recommendation for digestive health and comfort around menopause very similarly recommends eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and getting regular execise, as well as eating more smaller meals.

Yet another report on the cancer-fighting properties of cruciferous vegetables found that just one serving a day can lower lung cancer risk susbtantially broccoli and cauliflower were specifically named in the report, but cabbages, kohlrabi, and kale are also in that family.

The April Prevention also made a point of debunking the recent New England Journal of Medicine articles that challenged the value of fiber, on the grounds that the two studies in question were too short to be valid, that they failed to look at some of the ways in which fiber might be useful, and that they ignored evidence that fiber does help prevent other diseases than colon polyp regrowth.

That Prevention also mentioned potassium as helping prevent stroke, with its sources listed as baked potato (preferably with the skin), prunes, peaches, apricots, Swiss chard, orange juice, bananas, acorn squash, spinach, and tomato juice, as well as yogurt if you eat it.

And on a particularly Preventionish note, the April issue had an article explaining that vegetables are so vital to your health that it is desirable to drown them in butter, salt, sugar and cheese if that's necessary to get yourself to eat them, which the author expects it is, as many health-giving vegetables are claimed to be too unpalatable to cram down otherwise. This was certainly news to Chuck and me, who previously believed that we were enjoying our kale!

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We reported previously on efforts to provide legislative protection to family farms in Wisconsin while discouraging "factory farm" intensive livestock confinement operations. The bill which would do this, the Family Farm Protection Act, will need all the help it can get to be passed. If you want to help, call the legislative hotline in Madison and urge your state senator and representative to support it; the phone number for the hotline is (800) 362-9472. To get further involved call Wisconsin Citizen Action's Sam Gieryn at (608) 256-1250.

FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement), the group that organizes the Great American Meat-Out, is also holding a conference called Animal Rights 2001 in a Washington DC hotel on June 30 through July 5, with speakers, workshops, exhibits, etc. You can register online at

or contact FARM at Box 30654, Bethesda, MD 20824 for further information.

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NO VEGGIE TABLE this month

But we would certainly welcome any of our readers contributing a review of a veg-friendly restaurant you've eaten at and found especially enjoyable (or notably not enjoyable). Call me at 962-2703 if you're interested.

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The Lost Religion of Jesus: simple living and nonviolence in early Christianity, by Keith Akers (New York: Lantern Books, 2000)

The premise of Keith Akers' The Lost Religion of Jesus is that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish leader of fellow Jews during his life, preached not a negation or replacement of Jewish law and practice but a radical furthering of its spirit, especially in the directions of what we would call voluntary simplicity as well as total non-violence the latter necessarily including vegetarianism and a rejection of the Temple cult of animal sacrifice. Akers also posits that Jesus promoted baptism/ immersion in water as an alternative to animal sacrifice for ritual purification, and suggests that it was in fact Jesus' antagonism to Temple sacrifice which brought him into head-to-head conflict with the priestly (Saducee) leaders, antagonizing and threatening them to the point where they sought his crucifixion.

Akers' book then follows how Paul's theology and mission to the Gentiles distorted Jesus' original message while challenging the original disciples' practice; and he explains how these differences, along with the early Church's need to respond to the popularity of some of Paul's doctrines and also with the chances of history, created a split between the followers of Jesus' original teachings versus those practitioners of early Christianity who finally became that faith's dominant voice. And he traces how, in the course of this evolution of what became Chritianity as we know it, the pacifistic and voluntary-simplicity teachings became marginalized while the vegetarian facet of Jesus' message was completely lost.

Akers' position is thoroughly grounded in the modern scholarly/ critical view of Judeo-Christian Scriptures, which sees these documents as composed and gathered together over centuries by many people who may have each been inspired and well-intentioned but who were human beings acting within their own political and cultural milieus and agendas. In this understanding it is possible to consider that, with the best of intentions on its authors' parts, the Bible could contain some verses that represent older and closer-to-origin traditions while other passages could be later interpolations backwards of what some authors thought should have been there. Clearly, therefore, this book will not appeal to fundamentalists. This reviewer, however, as a scholar with some expertise in this area, found Akers' understanding of Jewish history, scripture, and tradition, as well as his knowledge of early Church history, to be impeccable, broad, and precise. The book was easy to read, the arguments easy to follow, and I found it fascinating and worthwhile. For non-fundamentalists it may provide persuasive arguments that true Christians should consider vegetarianism a primary goal or even obligation.

If you can't find this book in bookstores, you can probably special-order it from them, or inquire from the author, Keith Akers, P.O. Box 61273, Denver, CO 80206

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