The Great American Meat-Out event at the end of March went quite well. We had people in both Outpost stores; our table at the Capitol Drive store was near the deli case while our State Street store table was near the entrance (and also near the deli case there). As always, there were people who announced happily that they were already vegetarians (and who were then invited to sign our sign-up sheet and who received a free sample of the March newsletter), others who avoided eye contact with us and walked hurriedly on, and still others with whom we had all kinds of useful conversations. FARM reports that the Meat-Out continued its growth this year, with over 600 events in 15 countries. For ourselves, thanks are due to Barb Eisenburg, Sandy Forgach, Pat O'Neill, Jody Johnson, Jan Taylor, and Pat Courtney, who (along with Chuck and me) worked our tables.
Our potlucks are on Sundays, which means that the next one is May 6, not May 5 as erroneously stated in last month's newsletter. We are continuing to better advertise our potlucks and to have interesting little presentations at them, making them better than ever – so if you've been thinking for a while of coming to one some time when you get the chance, this is a good time. The most recent information on looking for a more public place to hold at least some of the potlucks is that the people involved will be able in a few more months to give us an idea of whether it will work out to meet at the Friends Meeting House.
Sunday, May 6, 6 PM, regular potluck at Jody and David's house, 1000 Lake Drive in South Milwaukee, south of College Ave and across the street from the Grant Park. Topic is a veggie-burger tasting (in addition to the usual potluck offerings). (414) 764-7262
Sunday, June 3, 6 PM, regular potluck at Jean Groshek's in Riverwest. Topic will be non-dairy milks.
Sunday, July 8, 6 PM, regular potluck, for which a host is needed – call 962-2703 to volunteer. Topic will be ingredient substitutions for baking
The next macrobiotic potluck will be on April 29 at Roberta Bass' place, 4013 N. Downer Ave. in Shorewood, 5 PM, 963-0605.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"...eating healthy isn't just about giving something up or going without. It's about finding delicious alternatives to the foods you're accustomed to. It's about being adventurous and trying foods from other cultures. In fact, eating vegetarian didn't close a door for me – it opened a dozen others."
– Lisa Malmarowski, March Outpost Exchange
The biggest relevant news story in the past few weeks continued to be the flap over hoof-and-mouth disease. As reported last month, there was a serious outbreak in England of this threat to the animal-food industry, with frantic attempts by authorities to contain it and concern about its potential spread to other parts of Europe.
Highlights since then included the disease's spread to Ireland, France, and the Netherlands, and considerable controversy over whether mass slaughter or vaccination is the best way to contain it (English authorities maintained that slaughter is preferable, yet had serious problems disposing of all the resulting carcasses). There were also stories about efforts to keep the disease from spreading to America, about a false alarm among the hogs of North Carolina, and recently (at this writing) a report of the determination that if hoof-and-mouth disease did show up here it would be almost impossible to contain, plus speculations regarding the potential effects of the European problem on the U.S. farm animal business. There were even letters to the editor published in the Milwaukee newspaper in response to hoof-and-mouth disease reporting, which noted the problems of animal husbandry generally and the preferability of vegetarianism over meat-eating.
Mad cow disease surfaced briefly in the print media, in a local newspaper column listing mad cow disease among the many problems caused by eating meat (such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and food poisoning), and in a NY Times report on a cluster of human mad cow victims in an English town, where transmission of the disease was traced to a butchering method used there.
The safety of meat-eating here was in the news as well. The Washington Post ran a pair of articles reporting on the dangers of contaminated meat (including a focus on a recent e. coli outbreak in Milwaukee) and also on the horrible conditions in slaughterhouses, which was reprinted in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Very much related to those reports was a NY Times article on federal officials' investigation of possible lapses and misconduct at some New York area meat plants, as well as a government proposal to end testing for salmonella in beef served in schools – followed the next day by a disavowal of any such plan by the Secretary of Agriculture.
Several other minor odd items regarding diet appeared in various places. A new University of Helsinki study strengthened the possibility of a connection between cow's milk and Type I diabetes in susceptible children. General Motors announced a plan to team up with Hormel to use pork and turkey byproducts for making molds used to cast car parts. Hog producers, who voted to stop a federal program that taxes them to promote pork, and whose vote was overriden by the new administration, are threatening to sue. And the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has begun offering inmates vegan meals – described as "no-flesh, heart-healthy" (in response to a suit by an inmate asking for meals that would not violate his religious beliefs).
There's also plenty of Vegetarianism Is Good For You news.
April was apparently Soy Month, and the praises of soy were accordingly sung. One point mentioned was that in 1999 the FDA ruled that a diet low in fat and cholesterol and including 25 mg. of soy protein per day could be claimed as reducing the risk of heart disease. Other benefits of soy in the diet which I saw mentioned include: reducing breast cancer risk; strengthening bones; relieving menopausal symptoms; lowering cholesterol; balancing emotions (because it contains the B vitamin thiamine which has that effect); reducing colon polyp risk; providing an alternative to animal milk; and lessening cancer risk generally.
Canadian researchers reported that flavonoids, plant chemicals found especially in strongly-colored vegetables and fruits, function not only as antioxidents but may also kill bacteria directly. The FDA came out with a statement that sellers of bananas and orange juice may now claim that these fruits, being rich in potassium and low in sodium, can help reduce risk of high blood pressure and stroke. A new German study found that artichoke extract helped lower cholesterol significantly (though I myself would rather eat artichokes, especially since eating them has been a way to aid digestion since the banquets of the Roman Empire!). And a study that removed fat from people's buttocks and analyzed it found that people whose fat was most derived from omega-3 fatty acids had the lowest heart attack rate compared to those whose buttocks fat came from other sources (flax seed and flax seed oils are omega-3 sources for those of us who do not eat fish).
Several new studies reinforce eating plant foods to prevent cancer. One new study published in Lancet noted that plant chemicals called isothiocyanates, which are present in the broccoli-and-cabbage family of vegetables, seem to help protect against lung cancer (though the study warned that quitting smoking is still a necessary part of lung cancer prevention!). A different study from the Netherlands, however, which tracked over 100,000 people aged 55 to 69 for 6 full years, found that there was significant protection against lung cancer from eating large amounts of any fruits and vegetables. Prevention also ran an article about cancer prevention, which discussed how our immune systems deploy natural killer (NK) cells all the time to destroy single cancer cells before they can multiply, and describing some new research reported in Lancet which found that people with the strongest NK cells tended to be the ones who ate lots of vegetables and fruits, especially green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli. Unfortunately, as the Prevention article then pointed out, the average American intake of cabbage-family and dark-green-leafy vegetables comes to less than 4 puny tablespoonsful per day. If you're not already eating kale, green cabbage, romaine lettuce, chard, fancy salad greens, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, and so on, start now. A recent Conscious Choice article pointed out that garlic may help protect against stomach, colon, esophageal, and breast cancers, and that culinary uses of turmeric, thyme, and basil may help as well. Cancer prevention came up also in the discovery by some researchers in China that eating foods with selenium helps prevent esophageal and gastric cancer; vegetarian selenium sources include whole wheat, nuts and seeds, especially sesame and pumpkin seeds. A warning showed up in Prevention, though, to the effect that peanut butter should never be eaten plain, as there is some choking risk (if it does go down the wrong way, it's too sticky to dislodge) – so always eat your peanut butter on your whole wheat!
And it's dandelion season, so if you have a guaranteed for-sure unsprayed source, gather dandelion greens before they send up flower stalks for a salad or stir-fry green. Dandelion leaves are, after all, dark green leafy vegetables, high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, iron, and good taste.
THE VEGGIE TABLE
Instead of a restaurant review this month, I offer notice of a different kind of food-provision service.
The idea of a personal chef is one that I encountered recently in a public radio report, where it was explained that personal chefs serve anyone who would like an experienced chef to come to their home, cook, leave food for them in the fridge or ready to eat at the time they specify, then clean up and leave the clients to their dinner. People who use personal chefs can include those whose work schedules don't leave them time to cook for themselves yet who want good food, new parents, parents of any age children who would rather give their kids quality time after work than prepare dinner (yet still want quality food), people who can't cook well but do like to eat well, and so on.
It did not occur to me that this idea could connect with vegetarianism until this month, when I met a man who has a business as a personal chef – and who mentioned to me that he has several food sensitivities himself, which make him extremely aware of some people's needs and/or desires to avoid certain foods. He will cook anything, he explained (such as soy which he himself cannot eat), and is very interested in selecting and preparing whatever foods fit the requirements of his customers, whether these are kosher or vegan or whatever. He can cook for you on a weekly or monthly basis, or just for a special occasion. If you're interested, call Chef Philip, (414) 774-4648.
Two summer conferences are being planned for which anyone who is interested should start making arrangements.
One is the annual Vegetarian Summerfest, put on by the North American Vegetarian Society. It will be held this year on July 11 through 15, in the Conference Center at Pitt-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and will feature experts on nutrition, health, exercise, cooking, animal rights, and the environment, as well as featuring fine vegan meals for participants. If someone wants to go as MARV's designated delegate, that person can get a break on the price, so if you're interested in this, get in touch with us soon at 962-2703. If you just want to know more about the conference, contact NAVS, PO Box 72-S5, Dolgeville, NY 13329, (518) 568-7970, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.navs-online.org.
The other conference is put on by the American Natural Hygiene Society, and will take place in Miami Beach, Florida, on July 20 through 24; John Robbins will be one of the speakers. Call (813) 855-6607 if you're interested in registering for this one.
On a different note, a book came to our attention recently: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. It grew from an article for Rolling Stone into a book exposing the nature, practices and impacts of the fast food industry on everything from the environment to the health of those who eat it. McDonald's is particularly featured. Anyone want to review it?