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May 2002

GREETINGS

Our first monthly potluck at the Friends’ Meeting House went very nicely indeed, with a bigger crowd than usual – several CUFA folks showed up who do not often join us, as well as several of the Friends themselves. The kitchen and eating areas were very nice, convenient, and congenial as well; it seemed to be generally agreed that this looks like a good idea.

Several people have mentioned being somewhat confused by the way we present the topics/ focuses of our potlucks. The idea is to have at each potluck either a brief presentation on some subject of vegetarian interest, or a focus on some kind of food (such as vegan ice creams or pizzas or some ethnic cuisine). The problem is that on food focus nights, people seem uncertain as to whether everyone is supposed to bring a dish that fits the theme, or just some people (and if the latter, who). What has in fact happened in the past is that some people do bring a focus-fitting dish while others don’t, and generally enough do so that the theme is noticeable. This seems to me to work fine, since we do like to explore different food ideas but want to do so without dictating that people must conform (since such a requirement might discourage some folks). The problem seems to lie in a general uncertainty among some attendees regarding what is expected of them. Will it be sufficient for me to hereby proclaim to all readers that when we do a food theme at a potluck, you are invited but not required to participate in it, depending on your own personal druthers and expertise? Further feedback on this will be appreciated – call me at 962-2703 to make your opinion known.

M.A.R.V. ACTIVITIES

Sunday, May 5, 5:30 PM, regular potluck at the Friends’ Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Place (from Humboldt Blvd. in Riverwest, go east on Auer to the end to see the parking lot). Some of us will bring vegan ice creams for tasting/ dessert.

Subsequent regular potlucks will be at the same place and time on: June 2, July 7, Aug. 4, and Sept. 8.

Macrobiotic potluck

Sunday, May 19, 5 PM, at Jerry O’Connor’s, 3007 N. 88th St., (414) 445-1099

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

Excerpts from "Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Prevention: Overview" by the American Cancer Society:

"Eat a variety of healthful foods, with an emphasis on plant sources. Eat five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day. Include vegetables and fruits at every meal and for snacks. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruits. Limit French fries, snack chips, and other fried vegetable products. Choose 100% juice if you drink fruit or vegetable juices. Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains and sugars…Limit consumption of red meats, especially those high in fat and processed…. Choose foods that help maintain a healthful weight…Substitute vegetables, fruits, and other low-calorie foods for calorie-dense foods such as French fries, cheeseburgers, pizza, ice cream, and sweets."

NEWS

We reported last month on the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (the deer and elk version of mad cow disease) among Wisconsin deer. Since then, several additional cases were confirmed for Wisconsin deer (though not until months after they were shot by hunters and presumably eaten), and the news was considered significant enough to make the New York Times, which handled the item as part of a larger story about the appearance of CWD in a lengthening list of U.S. states. Wisconsin state officials worry about the result for the state economy if the deerhunting season is affected, though there is also concern that official tracking of the situation may have been inadequate. The idea has surfaced of trying to kill a large percentage of the state’s deer herd in an attempt to control the disease’s spread. (How they would figure out which animals to kill, however, was not explained.) Meanwhile the first case of CJD (the human form of mad cow disease) to be found on U.S. soil was diagnosed in an immigrant from Britain, who is thought to have contracted it there before moving here.

Food safety has become a major concern for governments, although a law introduced into Congress after Sept. 11 to more strictly regulate imported food products is now stalled as the economic and cultural costs become clear and the feeling of urgency wanes. The European Union, on the other hand, has banned various Chinese meats and fish, and increased its testing of Asian shrimp and chicken following the discovery of banned antibiotics in these products. And the Japanese are being shaken by a series of scandalous revelations that trusted Japanese brands of meat and dairy were contaminated or otherwise not up to standard; these discoveries undermine Japan’s national beliefs in the safety and superiority of its food. The U.S., on the other hand, is happy to report a decline in food-borne illnesses.

Another whole issue that has arisen lately is the quality of beef, as a function of what the

animals are fed while alive. Several physicians and anthropologists have raised the idea that the meat eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors may have been much healthier than modern meat, not just because those animals were leaner but also because grass-fed beef has healthier fats in it than grain-fed beef. This is actually leading to an experiment to add fermented silage, hayage and flax oil to feedlot mixes (rather than just grazing cattle on grass…). It also ties in with a recent article in the March 31 NY Times Sunday magazine, tracking the life cycle of a beef steer; the reporting is notable for confirming everything about beef raising that made many of us to stop eating it (such as environmental impacts, the drugs and additives in the feed, and the less-than-idyllic lives the steers lead), although it seems that since the Humane Farming Association broke the news about inhumane slaughtering, corporations like McDonald’s have insisted with some success that the slaughterhouses clean up their act.

McD’s may be viewable as the enemy, in fact, but no one can say they don’t do their market research. It was their determination that their customers did not want bioengineered potatoes that forced Monsanto’s genetically engineered potato off the market, and now, in response to market research and Burger King’s veggie burger, McDonald’s is testing a non-GMO soyburger in Vancouver, made by Yves and served on a whole wheat bun. We’ll certainly try that one when it arrives here.

Another questionable-animal-food story involves fish. For several years, some researchers have been advising people to eat fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel on the grounds that the omega-3 fatty acids found therein help prevent heart disease. Now three new studies add further evidence in this direction, including the possibility that some of the beneficial omega-3s may be found only in these fishes. So fish-eating is being touted, even though most species of fish are over-fished and their populations are devastated, and even though there are now warnings against eating many fish species due to contamination of their flesh with all kinds of toxic substances from mercury to PCBs. No one seems to want to notice that the reason fish-eating is recommended is to prevent heart disease – but that a completely vegetarian low-fat diet is documentably much more heart-protective than a standard American diet that includes fish!

In this regard, it is significant that a recent study found that vegetarians have higher levels of salicylic acid in their blood; this is the substance that people are advised to get by taking aspirin regularly, to help prevent dangerous blood clots. Lots of bright-colored vegetables and fruits are recommended, while other heart-health advice includes eliminating margarine, using healthy oils such as olive and canola, eating food sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as nuts, seeds, and flax and hemp oils, avoiding processed foods, reducing or eliminating meat, and using the spices ginger and turmeric as well as getting antioxidents from tea and dark chocolate.

Protecting the heart is hardly the only way that vegetarian foods are good for you. A recent study found that in a group of teenagers they tracked for three years, those who ate the most whole grains were leanest and had the least insulin resistance, boding well for their ability to avoid heart disease and diabetes later on, while other studies reported in the last year found that eating whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates may reduce risk of both breast and colon cancer. Prevention magazine therefore takes the American Cancer Society’s recommendations to eat many fruits and vegetables seriously enough to suggest that women wear nine bracelets, starting the day with the bracelets on one arm, and transferring one to the other wrist for each produce serving, until all are moved….

Meanwhile, a team of researchers at the University of Bologna found that a substance in red pepper eased chronic indigestion and stomach pain; the necessary dose is five pills, or two to three spicy entrees, per day. At the same time, the May issue of Prevention pointed out that many people with chronic stomach pain from irritable bowel syndrome can obtain complete relief by removing all dairy foods from their diet. And a team at Johns Hopkins found evidence that, at least in animals, eating soy protein can decrease pain for various conditions.

On a different note, Dutch scientists found that men with low sperm counts obtained significant increases thereof when given supplements of both folic acid and zinc (one supplement or the other alone didn’t help). Vegetarian sources of folic acid are the dark green leafy vegetables, and also whole grains, while seeds and some nuts are good zinc sources.

Basic whole foods still outperform fancy (and expensive) supplements. Prevention reports that while cranberry juice from whole cranberries is indeed effective in suppressing urinary tract infections, cranberry-extract supplements are far less likely to work. They also report that plain water is just as good as sports drinks for exercise sessions of less than a couple of hours – and cheaper, and calorie-free. And to go even further, a Scottish study found that organic vegetable soup had far more vitamins and minerals than equivalent soup from chemically-grown vegetables.

CONNECTIONS

One good way to get your own vegetables organically grown is to subscribe to a Community Supported Agriculture farm, which means paying in the Spring, and then (usually) taking a box from a convenient pick-up point each week between June and late Fall. The contents of the box are whatever the farm was able to harvest that week, so your produce is as fresh, seasonal, and local as it can get, and all the CSAs in our region (so far) are organic as well. Egg shares are optional at an additional cost. Local CSAs are:

Backyard Bounty, Laura Comerford, W4873 County Rd. U, Plymouth, (920) 892-4319;

Genesee Community Farm, Patrick O’Day, 513 Grove St., Waukesha, (262) 542-8973, work required as well as a (smaller) payment;

Pinehold Gardens, David Kozlowski and Sandy Raduenz, 1807 Elm Rd., Oak Creek, (414) 762-1301; Rare Earth Farms, Steve Young, 6806 Hwy KW, Belgium, (262) 285-7070; Springdale Farm, Peter and Bernadette Seely, W7065 Silver Spring Ln., Plymouth, (920) 892-4856; Stella Gardens, Janet Gamble, Michael Fields Agricultural Inst., W2493 County Rd. ES, East Troy, (262) 642-3303;

Wellspring Gardens, Mary Ann Ihm, 4382 Hickory Rd., West Bend, (262) 675-6755.

In addition, Prairie Dock Farm in Watertown has U-pick shares (920-262-9996); Dan Conine (920-994-2365) is looking for inquiries regarding starting a CSA and farm coop in Belgium, WI; and Will Allen runs a year-round CSA/coop with pick-up on Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee (414-527-1930).

THE VEGGIE TABLE

One reason that Chuck and I visit New York City several times a year is to see my family there, but the restaurant scene in that metropolis is certainly a draw as well. This time we tried a restaurant advertised in E Magazine, the Candle Café, where we ate very well indeed.

Candle Café is very "politically correct": they serve only organic vegetarian food, and a modest but quite noticeable sign on the front door politely asks people not to come in if they are wearing fur. Since all points of this mind-set were fine with us, we entered, were seated promptly, and sat down to peruse the menu. This took some time, since offerings include many juices and juice cocktails (and wine and beer), eight appetizers (including the soup of the day), four salads (some of which look like meals in themselves), four sandwiches and burgers, eight entrees, and a variety of side dishes. For $8.95 I could choose 3 sides, which together made quite a filling and delicious meal, and when I asked the waitperson which two of the several dressings she would recommend, she brought me both. I did not have room for any of the seven listed desserts. All ingredients of each dish are listed on the menu, and the very rare non-vegan item is flagged (casein in soy cheese, bee pollen in a protein drink, honey in the tempeh bacon). Being mid-Manhatten, it was a bit pricier than Milwaukee, but not that much more, and entirely worth it. If you get the chance, find Candle Café at 1307 Third Ave. (3d Ave. and 75th St.) in Manhatten, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, (212) 472-0970