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December 2001

GREETINGS

Between last newsletter and this, our seventh annual Pre-Thanksgiving Vegetarian Feast has been held, and we may consider it another success. Attendance was a bit less than in the last two or three years, but we filled the hall we used, which looked very nice with white cloths on long tables and dried flowers and autumn leaves. There was plenty of delicious food but not too many leftovers (although several comments suggested that we should have more desserts next year, which we will try to heed). There was also a wonderful community atmosphere of conviviality and cooperation, an enthusiastic band of entertainers, lots of informational literature both old/reliable and new/ timely, and a great gathering of old friends and newcomers. Welcome to those of you receiving this newsletter for the first time after connecting with us at the Feast.

Besides being fun, this event is also our annual fundraiser, and was successful in this regard as well. Although attendance was a bit down, we had decided to raise our fee a dollar this year over last year, which quite made up the difference; after subtracting the costs of the hall and supplies, we have ended up with nearly $600 net profit, leaving MARV’s checking account in a very solid positive balance at about $1200. One subject for discussion at future potlucks might now be how we can start using this resource to further the cause of vegetarian awareness in Milwaukee.

Be it clearly noted that none of this could have happened without the help and effort of many people. Special thanks go to Cindy Juds, Janice and Julia Lagina, Jodene, Catherine, and Patrick LeDenmat, Pat Courtney, Kathleen Arch, Mary Ann Schemenauer and Margaret

Gebhard and Rick Fisher (3 good volunteers from CUFA), Catherine and Andrew Kern, Barb Eisenberg, Jean Groshek, Pat O’Neill, Teri, Steve, and Savanna of the Tischer-Nodine family, Dustin Paluch, Henry Shine (hope I spelled that right), Joanie Warsinski and the band, and any other people, especially including the troop of helpful children, whose names may have been left out – very inadvertantly if so!

Thank you to everyone who cooked, and especially to those of you who donated food preparation time and/or expenses for the large-amount dishes.

Most extra-special thanks go to David Paluch for great signs and literature, and particularly to Jody Johnson, whose organizing of the food and kitchen gets more amazing every year, and without whom this event would never get off the ground.

As the holiday season now takes off, we are still planning usual potlucks at the beginning of December and the beginning of January. See you there!

M.A.R.V. ACTIVITIES

Sunday, Dec. 2, 6 PM, regular potluck at Jean Groshek’s, 2531 N. Dousman (1 block east of Humboldt) in Riverwest area. 265-2366. East Indian food theme

Sunday, Jan. 6, 6 PM, regular potluck at the Quigleys’ house in Shorewood. Non-dairy "cheese" demo

Macrobiotic potlucks

Sunday, Nov. 25, 5 PM at the Malins’, 6522 W. Wright in Wauwatosa, 453-7326.

December potluck at Allen Owens’, 5310 W. Loomis Rd., 421-1700, date to be decided.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"My refusing to eat meat occasioned an inconveniency, and I have been frequently chided for my singularity. But my light repast allows for greater progress, for greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension."

-- Benjamin Franklin

NEWS

As usual, there is both unsettling news about eating animal foods and good news about vegetarian diets.

A study of over 1000 women aged 65 and up, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found a definite correlation between bone loss and eating animal food (including dairy): those who got most of their protein from animal foods had a 3.7 times higher rate of hip fracture than those who got most of their protein from vegetable sources.

On a different note, both the FDA and EPA are now advising against the consumption of fish by pregnant women and young children, due to mercury in the fish which could damage children’s brains and central nervous systems. (Eat flax seed oil to get the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that fish are sometimes touted for supplying. Flax seed oil should never be cooked, but should be used in such cold preparations as salad dressing.)

Regarding mad cow disease and its human form, variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD), an interesting NY Times article discussed the difficulty of estimating how many people might ultimately develop this illness. Yet it still blithely accepted the assumption that mad cow disease is not a problem in the U.S., despite the facts that the U.S. only tests 2,000 cattle out of 36 million and that Europeans who test 25% of their cattle are finding mad cow disease in apparently healthy animals. In Japan, in contrast, when only one case of mad cow disease was discovered in the country, thousands of schools and restaurants removed beef from their menus. Meanwhile, McDonalds’ practice of using beef tallow to flavor french fries, which caused a scandal a few months ago in India, has now become the subject of a lawsuit filed in Seattle by an attorney there who was irked by the representation of such items as vegetarian.

And while the number of illnesses and deaths from anthrax is utterly dwarfed by the number from microorganisms that get into food due to animal husbandry and slaughterhouse practices (as mentioned here last month), it is not reassuring that Bayer drug company is actively involved in undercutting the drug that fights anthrax. Bayer makes both Cipro, which is used in cases of anthrax exposure, and also makes a closely related drug that is used widely and routinely in the poultry industry, to the extent that microorganism resistance to these drugs can be expected to develop quickly.

In news which is merely bizarre, a NY Times article announced with excitement that a new device may help make beef safer by more effectively detecting disease-carrying bits of feces on carcasses…. (At least they’re noticing that feces on food is a bad thing.) And with similarly blinkered vision, another recent article announced in large print the good news that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs do reduce heart attacks and strokes; one had to read past the headline to find out that the reduction was only 7 - 10 %, whereas a low-fat vegan or near-vegan diet along with appropriate exercise can reduce the risk by about 90%. It is therefore nice news that several ball teams now offer veggie dogs in their stadiums, including the Blue Jays, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the White Sox, the Expos, and Marlins, the Athletics, and the Mariners.

On the other hand, vegetarianism is still good for you.

As implied above, flax seeds can be used in various health-giving ways. A Prevention nugget explained that ground flax seeds, added to food, supply stellar amounts of lignans, a kind of fiber that can help fight breast cancer, while the flax seed oil is a source of alpha-linolenic acid, the above-mentioned omega-3 fatty acid that fights heart attacks and probably breast cancer and depression, whereas whole flax seeds only help combat constipation.

Vegetarianism may even make one more comfortable, since a study published recently in the Journal of Clinical Pathology found that the level of salicylic acid – the inflammation-fighting compound found in aspirin but which is also present in fruits and vegetables – was 12 times higher in vegetarians’ blood than in meat-eaters.

The December Prevention had a couple of tidbits about fats. One was that lowering the percentage of calories one gets from fats can help one’s memory – but also that saturated fats (found in animal products) were far worse for the memory than unsaturated fats (found in vegetarian foods). A different item, however, gave another reason to avoid margarines, which come from vegetable sources but contain trans-fatty acids; a new study found that trans-fats decrease artery flexibility substantially. (Trans-fatty acids are found in fats such as corn oil that are normally liquid, but which were treated to make them solid at room temperature)

The apparent controversy about the cancer-fighting effects of fiber has received substantial new data from a huge European study (over 400,000 participants from nine countries). With a large enough and varied enough study group it became quite clear that a high-fiber diet is protective – and of course vegetarians who eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains and beans are on a high-fiber diet automatically. The same study also found an increased cancer risk from eating large amounts of preserved meat such as ham, bacon, and salami, which vegetarians of course avoid.

Meanwhile, a study published in June in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that eating lots of fruits and vegetables helps prevent heart disease, with green leafy vegetables and those high in vitamin C being the most protective.

The advice of a book titled Eat to Beat Cancer runs along similar lines; it recommends regular ingestion of foods from each of several groups: onion group (garlic, chives, asparagus, leeks, onion); cabbage family group (includes broccoli, collards, all kinds of cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, bokchoy, radishes, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi); nuts and seeds group; beans group (dried beans and peas, green beans and peas, soy); grain group (whole, of course); fruit group; tomato family (tomatoes, potatoes) and red-or-orange fleshed vegetables; umbelliferous group (carrots, parsnips, celery, parsley, some herbs); and finally various spices including ginger, and seaweed. In other words, a wide-ranging vegan diet with lots of variety is just what the new nutritional research suggests for general health protection.

CONNECTIONS

At our recent feast, we made connection with Ryan Wilson and Courtney Ernster, proprietors of a local business called Vegan Essentials, whose mission is to make vegan products of all kinds available to consumers. Their product lines include non-leather shoes, jackets, and accessories, vegan food and sweets, body care products and cosmetics, books, and other things. Contact them at VeganEssentials, 7722 W. Menomonee River Pkwy, Wauwatosa, WI 53213, (414) 607-1953, or on the internet at www.VeganEssentials.com

And if you’re looking for yet another vegetarian potluck, the UWM student group Alliance for Animals hosts a vegan potluck on the first Thursday of each month at 2427 Pierce Street in Riverwest. They can be contacted at alliance4animals@yahoo.com

DIALOG

We come to the close of a year that seems to have changed forever Americans’ perceptions of the world, and our expectations of safety and permanence in our lives. The events of early September shook our worldview: never before have foreigners actually successfully attacked Americans on our own soil; now they have; we suddenly live in a different reality than we ever had to learn to deal with before, and many of us are afraid as we begin, willy-nilly, to learn to navigate this new existence.

Let me share the awareness that has made me far luckier than most. For my reading of history and my European travels are broad and detailed enough to have convinced me long ago that the perception of security on which we Americans relied was always a misperception. The only permanent thing in this world is the certainty of change. The only things that can truly be relied on are the love we give each other, our opportunities to make moral choices, and the great recurring everchanging cycles of the natural world.

These natural cycles include the eternal patterns of wild and agricultural growth and maturation, spring to ripening to harvest, that have fed us from the earliest plantfood-gathering nomads to the present day. Our simplest, most basic survival still depends on the food that farming and gathering still provides.

When we choose to be vegetarians we reconnect to these natural agricultural cycles.

When we choose to be vegetarians we honor the obligation to help enable all people to be fed, and to help enable the whole vibrant biosphere of plants and animals to thrive.

Needing to rediscover moorings that we can rely on in times that try many of us, simply paying attention to what we eat can be a reconnection to exactly the things least likely to betray us: the solid earth, each other, and our moral faculties.

So celebrate in the holiday season the sure turning of the year. Celebrate with the people you care for. Celebrate with vegetarian feasts. For simply being here, with each other, with the chance to make choices that count for the

good of the turning world is cause for celebration.