We did it again! Our eighth annual Pre-Thanksgiving Feast has taken place, and went off delightfully. We had over 170 people in attendance (more than last year), the food was as sumptuous as ever, and we even made some money, though I have not yet got all the reimbursement-for-ingredients requests, and I know at least a couple of checks are still in the mail, so I can’t yet say exactly how much.
Special thanks are due and hereby presented to everyone who helped make it happen: Cindy Juds, Jeanne Barnes, Jean and Mariah Groshek, Jan Taylor, Barb Eisenberg, Mary Beth Koenigs, Catherine, Ted, and Andrew Kern, Dustin Paluch and his friend Justin, Kurt Hildebrand, Margaret Gebhard, Gloria Steck, and Rick Fisher and the band. Extra special super thanks go to Jody Johnson and David Paluch, without whom we would not even be able to begin to do this.
Anyone who has comments or suggestions to make on any aspect of how the feast was done or should be done next time is encouraged to call me (Louise) at 414-962-2703 or Jody at 414-764-7262, or (better yet) come to the next potluck. One thing we will surely be discussing is whether we should use the same site next year or look for one with a real kitchen; we will also reconsider the entertainment. If you’ve been to a meeting where our group’s decisions were made, you know that we simply discuss the concern at a potluck until there's a consensus – everyone who shows up that evening gets to contribute their opinion and have it heard and be part of the final decision. So if you have a point to make, join us!
Sunday, Dec. 8, 5:30 PM, regular potluck at the Friends’ Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Pl. (from Humboldt Blvd. in Riverwest, go east on Auer a few blocks to the parking lot). Topic is holiday cookies – bring a recipe to share and/or cookies and/or an entrée (some of us better bring solid food!)
Subsequent potlucks will be the same time and place on Jan. 5, Feb. 2, and March 2.
Sunday, Dec. 15, 5 PM, at Allen Owen’s house, 5310 W. Loomis Rd. in Greendale, 421-1725.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"Medical research has shown that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and help prevent bone loss. Diets high in fat have been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. ‘Very few illnesses have not shown some association with dietary practice,’ [epidemiologist Dr. Kimberly] Morland said."
-- NY Times, 11/12/02, in an article titled "Good Health is Linked to Grocer"
This month’s quote was part of an article reporting on the problems faced by people in poor communities in getting access to good food, since supermarkets tend to avoid their neighborhoods. In fact, this is a facet of the problem of hunger worldwide, as evidenced by the recent listing of world health risks by the World Health Organization – which placed simple hunger first in rank. Other organizations meanwhile report that fish, which is the main protein source for a billion people, is being depleted by current fishing methods and demand; the question here is whether very environmentally destructive and short-sighted fish farming should be implemented as a solution, or whether people dependent on fish should be helped to find other protein foods.
Closer to home, hunters are still worried about Chronic Wasting Disease (the deer equivalent of mad cow disease), but apparently not as much as first thought. Deer hunting licenses ended up being only 13% lower than last year, possibly because many hunters are counting on being able to have their prey tested for CWD before deciding whether or not to eat it. Not only Wisconsin is affected: Maine is also now planning to inspect deer for CWD.
Other worrisome animal food news includes an item about a dysentery outbreak in south-western Russia, which was traced to dairy processing plants and was thought to have come from two dysentery-carrying workers who packaged products and cleaned milk cans; several people (mostly children) were sickened, and plants were closed for disinfection. Closer to home, experts in the field pointed to the listeria outbreak in the northeast U.S. this past summer, and the resulting recall of over 27 million pounds of meat, as indication of how hard it is to ensure food safety. Perhaps this might be helped by a new measure recently ordered by the Department of Agriculture, which directs inspectors to check that meat packers clean and check their machines and counters instead of just testing their product. Meanwhile, the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition is proposing that restaurants should have to provide written warnings whenever they serve such dangerous foods as undercooked beef, eggs, fish, pork, poultry, and shellfish. The FDA is not, however, warning pregnant women about the danger of mercury contamination of tuna.
Plant products can be a problem occasionally: cantalopes imported from Mexico have been linked to salmonella outbreaks, and imports were stopped until it can be shown that they’re grown in cleaner conditions. But it’s still mostly animal foods that are a concern. A paper presented at this year’s Experimental Biology conference showed that meat-heavy high-protein diets tend to cause dehydration which could be dangerous to athletes, and a University of Southhamptom study found that women who eat a meaty diet with few carbohydrates during pregnancy may then bear children at higher risk for high blood pressure as adults. A recent Italian study found that a low-animal-protein diet did better than the traditional low-calcium diet at preventing kidney stones. And even small amounts of daily ham or sausage have been found to increase risk of developing precancerous polyps in the colon.
In this light, it is a little bit of good news that a judge sided with small hog farmers who had refused to pay a government-mandated fee to advertise and promote pork. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were mostly trying to save family farms, which are beset by factory-farming corporations, but anything that decreases meat advertising sounds good to us. And a nifty little item in the NY Times recently reported on haggis, the Scottish national dish of animal organs stuffed into animal intestines: it seems that when the Scots were faced with a consumer demand for vegetarian foods, their sense of business won out over their sense of tradition – and a vegetarian version of haggis is now on the market. Also in the news is a lawsuit filed recently by two New York teenagers, charging McDonald’s with making them fat. This is only part of McDo’s general bad news of late: sales in established markets are leveling off, and fewer new restaurants are opening.
On the other hand, plant foods continue to be Good For You. For example, women who eat extra vitamin C were found in a recent study to be at lower risk for cataracts – and vitamin C is of course found in vegetables and fruits. A Tu-lane University study found that eating legumes (beans and peas) four times a week cut heart disease by over 20% as compared with eating them less than once a week. Having one to three drinks per day of (vegan) beer, wine, or spirits seems to greatly lower one’s risk of dementia, according to a recent article in the British medical journal Lancet (you can’t count wine as a serving of grapes/fruits though!). And winter vegetables are nutritious as well as tasty: carrots and beets have many immune-system-helping carotenoids; kale and turnip and beet greens are rich in calcium; parsnips (they look like white carrots) are sweet and high in fiber; and Jerusalem artichokes are high in fiber and also very high in iron.
A study reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association successfully helped families cut both calories and grocery costs. It mandated filling the plate with "green light" foods: whole grains and unsweetened cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables, lentils and beans, as well as tuna (eek – see above) and fat-free dairy, while eating smaller and fewer portions of "yellow light" foods such as low-fat dairy, eggs, skinless chicken, and fish, and severely limiting "red light" foods like whole milk pro-ducts, cheese, red meat, pork, butter, and processed foods. They were clearly not thinking vegetarian – yet look which foods were promoted and which ones discouraged.
Chocolate is still considered a health food, full of good antioxidents and also apparently useful in keeping blood platelets from forming clots – as long as you eat dark rather than milk chocolate. New information suggests that just one ounce is enough to get the benefits. Also, they’re still saying that cranberry juice really works to suppress urinary tract infections, by stopping even antibiotic-resistant bacteria from sticking to urinary tract cells.
Prevention magazine had an article on foods one can use to fill one’s stomach without filling up on calories – and it’s no surprise that most are plant foods: air-popped popcorn, low-cal bread, puffed cereal, grapes, soups, oranges, bran cereal, apples, oatmeal, potatoes, and whole wheat pasta.; the angel food cake, mousse, and low-cal ice cream on the list are meat-free if not vegan.
Finally, Healthwise ran an article on flax seed, pointing out that it is particularly high in beneficial fibers called lignans, which seem helpful in reducing cancer risk and perhaps in helping control polycystic kidney disease. Flax seeds are a good source of desirable omega-3 fatty acids as well. 1 to 2 tablespoons a day of ground flax seeds will give you their benefits.
The oils in flax seeds bring up the whole issue of the reconsideration that nutritionists have been giving of late to fats and oils and what is and is not good for us to eat.
Years ago, it was a great advance to discover
that cholesterol was bad for the heart, and that saturated fat was full of it; this gave rise to the first efforts to control heart disease by control-ling dietary cholesterol from meat and dairy. Later it was found that some people’s bodies make too much cholesterol when they have too much fat of any kind, which became the basis for using very-low-fat diets to control and reverse heart disease. Then it was found that the trans-fatty acids in margarine and many processed foods ("partly hydrogenated oil" as an ingredient) can cause worse havoc than eating saturated fats. Somewhere in there it was realized that all blood cholesterol is not the same: HDL is good and helpful while LDL is dangerous, and a good ratio of HDL to LDL (at least 1 to 3) is as important as a low overall number. And then came the Mediterranean diet, showing that people who eat lots of olive oil but little red meat can be in very good shape. That high-protein-and-fat, low-carbohydrate diets promise the health benefits that go with weight control only confuses the issue further.
This is all prompting a complete reevaluation of the role of fats in the diet. A consensus is emerging that it’s actually good to eat small amounts of some fats, such as those in avocado, flax seed, hemp seed, olives, olive oil, walnuts, other nuts and seeds, and canola oil, while the saturated fat in animal products but also the trans-fats in hydrogenated oils and the saturated fat of palm kernel oils are bad for you.
We have an interesting anecdote on the issue. When Chuck and I met, his cholesterol was low (131) on an ultra-low-fat diet, but his HDL to LDL ratio was really bad. After 12 years of eating small amounts of olive oil, flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, and nuts and seeds, his total cholesterol is now 152 – but his HDL to LDL ratio is 5 to 6, with an HDL so high as to be a heart-protective factor.
A quite different issue that has surfaced lately has to do with efforts to rethink the whole issue of vegetarianism as it relates to animal welfare.
Many of us are vegetarian because of concern for animals, whether we’re reluctant to have creatures die for our table or concerned that food animals are ill-treated while alive. Many of us also worry about the environmental impacts of modern meat-raising and slaughtering, and the illnesses these can cause. As such concerns surface, one emerging response is that rather than going vegetarian, we should all sup-port humane animal farming: raising animals roaming freely in barnyards and grassy fields that are too hilly to support row crops anyway, so that they live good, natural lives until being humanely slaughtered. A switch to such practices would make meat humane, and healthy to eat, while supporting environmentally sound family farms. One article I saw insisted that we cannot encourage a switch to such practices unless we buy and eat the meat so raised.
I’d agree that those who do eat meat should support such a return to traditional farming practices. But is this a reason that people like me who do not now like meat must make ourselves eat it? Or that people like Chuck for whom vegetarianism is necessary for continued life and health should sacrifice themselves? What if you just don’t want to be involved with any critter being killed at all?
Yes, an agriculture that includes humane and environmentally sound animal husbandry would be a good goal as long as some people do eat meat. But the notion that vegetarianism is bad because that scheme would improve on the current state of affairs is going way too far.