Our big news this month, in addition to the Great American Meat-Out event on March 23, is that the Society of Friends (aka Quakers) has given an enthusiastic Yes to our request to hold our monthly potlucks regularly at their Meeting House in the Riverwest area. As many of you recall, we’ve discussed at some length the idea of having our potlucks in the same place each month, and having that place be a more public venue than our living rooms, in the hope that this would make it easier for new contacts to try joining us. We needed to submit a proposal and wait while the Friends gave it their due consideration; this has now happened, and in fact it may be working for us already, since they are putting our potlucks into their bulletin to their members, so that we may see several new people at the April potluck, which will be the first at their Meeting House. Another bonus of this timing is that it is just right for me to create a flyer for the April through September potlucks to include among the handouts we’ll have available at our Meat-Out tabling.
Speaking of which, Meat-Out plans are now more settled; our presence at the Outpost stores will be from 11 AM until 2 PM (which means those of us working the event should arrive at 10:30 in the morning and figure on leaving by about 2:30). We have several volunteers al-ready, but could use a couple more. Call 962-2703 to get involved. It’s fun.
Also, don’t forget that we have slightly changed our potluck times. Plan to arrive at 5:30 PM, not 6, and expect that we will be starting to eat promptly at 6 PM, so that we can complete all our business and pleasure before it gets too late.
Sunday, March 3, 5:30 PM, regular potluck at Jean Groshek’s, 2531 N. Dousman (Dousman runs N-S, 1 block east of Humboldt in the Riverwest area), (414) 265-2366. Topic is how to use uncommon grains.
Saturday, March 23, 11 AM-2 PM, Great American Meat-Out informational tabling at both Outpost stores. Helpers are still being accepted – call 962-2703 to volunteer.
Sunday, Apr. 7, 5:30 PM, regular potluck at the Friends’ Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Place (at the end of Auer St. E of Humboldt).
Subsequent monthly potlucks at the same place will be on May 5, June 2, July 7, Aug. 4, and Sept. 8. This will not necessarily stop us from having additional events such as an August backyard picnic or the CUFA picnic.
March 17, at Pat O’Neill’s, 2431 N. Bartlett, 964-9759.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
"Q. Good nutritional advice is notoriously complicated and hard to follow, isn’t it?
A. No, it’s not complicated. It’s simple: eat more fruits and vegetables, and don’t eat too much. And be active and don’t smoke."
-- NY Times interview with Dr. Marion Nestle of New York University, author of the new book Food Politics.
Meat-eating is still bad for you. Italy recently reported its first diagnosis of someone with the human form of mad cow disease, which is now believed to have a 6-8 year incubation period. This makes unreassuring the report that the U.S. may have imported over 200,000 pounds of beef and beef products (including "edible meat offal" which can contain brain tissue) from Britain and Spain in the past year. But even without such concerns, eating a lot of animals is problematical, as witness a report from Scotland, where animal-food-heavy diets are the norm. The Dundee Infant Feeding Study found that a fifth of the children who were followed from birth to age 14 were already showing signs of being at risk for type II diabetes and heart disease, although such conditions should not begin to appear until people reach their 40s and 50s. The physicians involved are planning to see if they can help these children reduce their risks by getting them to eat more fruits and vegetables and to exercise more.
On a rather different note, the water pollution caused by agricultural runoff – which is pesticides and animal wastes – is now bad enough to get serious attention not just from environmentalists but also from water works managers in farm states, whose job is to clean up the mess before they can let people drink their cities’ water. The major blame is laid on intensive confinement animal operations and on the chemicals used in the industrial-model farms that grow the animals’ feed grains.
Occasionally, positive notes surface, such as a NY Times report in February that the poultry industry has quietly begun to cut back on its use of routine antibiotics just to make chickens grow faster. The cutback may help slow the growth rate of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the number of food poisonings from antibiotic-fed fowl – though there’s no labeling going on, so consumers still can’t tell whether the bird they buy was antibiotic-fed or not. On the other hand, I heard a radio report on NPR at the end of January which announced a new vaccine produced in Canada designed to help eliminate e. coli poisoning – by being injected into the cows that harbor the e. coli, rather than being given to people….
A related odd note was a recent report on foodborne illnesses, which found that less than half of them were caused by identifiable micro-organisms – but did find that the rate of such illnesses remained stable in Sweden between 1994 and 2000 while increasing ten-fold in the U.S. It was speculated that the difference may lie partly in the fact that Swedish food has little or no genetically modified crop products in it, while much U.S. food does have them.
A frustrating note was a recent NY Times Science-and-Health section article on maintaining strong bones, which did not breathe one hint of the connection between osteoporosis and eating animal protein. Similar was a report that baby formulas will now be fortified with two fatty acids recently discovered to be important for babies’ nerve and eye development; derived from marine algae, they will be vegetarian – but where was the mention that breast-fed babies’ diets do not need fortification?
At the same time, there is plenty of good news about plant foods, and in February some happy data about chocolate was featured in various venues. Chocolate, it seems, is now recognized as being high in antioxidents, which help protect the body by blocking both cellular and arterial damage from free radicals. Further, scientists have isolated chemicals in chocolate that do in fact stimulate the brain so as to make people feel better. Chocolate by itself has fats which are helpful rather than hurtful, and do not cause acne – though milk chocolate is full of butterfat and no good for you for that reason (similarly, chocolate itself is safe for teeth, as long as the candy eaten does not contain sticky substances in addition to the chocolate). Nor is it high in caffeine. Of late, however, chocolate-lovers have been dismayed to learn that much of the world’s chocolate is grown using children as slave-laborers. An answer to this issue, at least for now, is to buy fair-trade chocolate from such companies as Cloud Nine, Rapunzel, and Endangered Species; organically grown chocolate is also likelier to be human- as well as environmentally-friendly.
On the subject of sweets, honey is also being rediscovered as a food with some value. Apparently, honey digests differently than other sugars; it causes less of a jump-and-drop in blood sugar, and when fed to athletes after an intensive training session helps them maintain blood sugar levels better. Honey also contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidents, which make it not only more healthful than other sweeteners but a good preservative as well.
Recent news also suggests that a plant-based diet may help protect against two dread diseases. It’s been learned that Alzheimer’s may be linked to high blood levels of homocysteine, which is a byproduct of protein digestion. But homocysteine levels are reduced by maintaining good levels of the B-vitamin folate, which is provided by eating foliage (i.e., dark green leafy vegetables), and also by taking your vita-min B-12 supplements. And a study of over 42,000 men found that those with the most "Western"-type diet (lots of red meat, high-fat dairy, processed meat, refined grains, and desserts) had a much higher risk of developing type II diabetes than those who ate the most vegetables, fruits, and whole grains while minimizing red meat.
The March Prevention had several interesting items. One was that eating peanuts and peanut butter can help lower the bad LDL type of cholesterol; Prevention has also been touting eating small amounts of peanuts as part of a diet that helps satisfy the appetite so as to make weight-loss dieting possible. Another tip was that almond skins contain cancer-fighting flavonoids, so almonds should be eaten with their skins on, not blanched. It was mentioned again that blue-berries help brain function, as it seems that they help aging brain cells maintain communication. Readers were also advised to read labels and eliminate partially hydrogenated oil so as to avoid the trans-fatty acids that are bad for the heart, while being told again to get the omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce heart disease deaths. Cold-water fish were mentioned; do I need to repeat that flax seed oil and hemp seed oil are the vegetarian sources of omega-3s? Finally, readers were reminded that lycopene in tomatoes and tomato products helps prevent cancer; other sources of lycopene are water-melon, papaya, guava, and pink grapefruit.
Finally, the most recent Outpost Exchange had an article on the healthfulness of potatoes: eaten baked or steamed, with the skin on, they are high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, vita-min C, potassium, and protein, but no fat (til toppings are added). Another article discussed "superfoods." One list of these named orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables; cruciferous and leafy green vegetables; mushrooms; sea vegetables; garlic and relatives; whole grains; beans and other legumes; soy and soy products; and nuts and seeds. Another similar list was: artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce and salad greens, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, blueberries, cranberries, pineapples, oranges, chili peppers, ginger, tea, oats, yogurt, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and oily fish (have I mentioned flax and hemp seed oils lately?).
THE VEGGIE TABLE
We went to a restaurant we had not previously tried, although it seems to have been there awhile, and found it quite acceptable.
Sahar Persian Cuisine, located downtown, has vegetarian menu sections for both lunch and dinner. The $7 lunch buffet features quite a few vegetarian dishes, and there are six vegetarian lunch menu selections as well. The dinner menu offers five vegetarian appetizers and six vegetarian entrees. Entrees include a cup of vegan lentil soup as well as a complimentary appetizer of warm pita quarters with a plate of feta cheese cubes, radish slices, fresh parsley, and onion, with which one can make a nifty little sandwich, either vegan or vegetarian depending on the items one chooses.
This does raise the point that Sahar offers rather more choices for lacto-vegetarians than for vegans, since a number of its dishes incorporate either feta cheese or yogurt. Of the dinner appetizers on the menu, for example, only two are vegan, and only four of the dinner entries are vegan (two of which, unfortunately for Chuck, contain eggplant, thus leaving him with a choice only of dolmeh – stuffed grape leaves – or koofteh, which are seasoned fried chickpea balls in sauce and very tasty). Beverages include wine, juice, lemonade, soft drinks, coffee, tea, and an interesting item called doorgh which involves yogurt (again), mineral water and mint and would be extremely thirst-quenching in a hot climate. In general, we found the food quite tasty, and the prices quite reasonable.
Both times we went, we noticed that a good percentage of the clientele looked distinctly Middle-Eastern, which was heartening, since customers whose native food is the type of fare offered is usually a good guide to relatively authentic ethnic fare. The entryway is shared by the entry to a Cousins restaurant, and very plate-glass luncheonetty, but inside Sahar the décor includes some very nice murals and painted tiles. We found the waitstaff helpful and friendly, though in an uninvolved way.
Sahar is located at 307 E. Wisconsin Ave., phone number 270-0970. The lunch buffet is available Monday-Friday from 11 AM to 2:30 PM, and the restaurant in open for lunch from the menu on Saturday as well, and for dinner Monday through Saturday.
FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement), the people who sponsor the Great American Meat-Out, sent us notice of their Animal Rights 2002 conference. It will be held this year on June 28-July 3 in a hotel in the environs of Washington, D.C., and will feature many well-known participants, campaign reports, organizing and outreach skills, lots of networking, vegan cuisine, and a march on Washington. Anyone interested can phone 1-888-327-6872, or connect with them on the internet at www.AnimalRights2002.org