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September 2004

GREETINGS

 

It feels like it hasn’t been Summer yet, but here we are moving into Fall! This means, of course, that our tabling event at the Outpost Wellness Fest is coming right up, and we’re in the final stages of working out details for our Pre-Thanksgiving Feast.

One thing about the PTF, which came up at the August potluck but was not really resolved, was what we should charge for it. On the one hand, it was pointed out that last year we raised the fee a bit because our expenses at the South Shore Park pavilion were so high – and since we are paying considerably less this year, it might be nice to pass on the savings. On the other hand, the PTF is our only fundraiser, and our budget was really tight this year, so if we keep the fee where it was last year, that would give us enough of a pad to be able to consider some additional event or activity if we wish in the coming year. Also, the issue of whether the PTF should be the usual format or all potluck needs to be resolved. We need your feedback on this fairly quickly so the PTF flyer can be finalized and printed and distributed. Come to the September potluck with your thoughts, or phone us at 414-764-7262 (Jody and David) or 414-962-2703 (Louise and Chuck), or email us at chuckgyver@aol.com, but please let us know your thoughts soon. And in any case, please consider volunteering to help distribute the PTF flyer once it’s printed in the next couple of weeks. Ands while we’re on the subject of volunteer opportunities, we have enough people to man our table at the Wellness Fest, but that just frees folks up to help with the Pre-Thanksgiving Feast – save the date now!

M.A.R.V. ACTIVITIES

Sunday, Sept. 5, regular potluck, 5:30 PM, at the Friends’ Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Pl. in Riverwest (from Humboldt Blvd., go east on Auer a few short blocks to the parking lot). Focus on Middle Eastern food; also bring your questions to be answered (assuming that we can).

Subsequent regular potlucks will be on Oct. 3, Nov. 7, Dec. 5, Jan. 2, Feb. 6, and March 6. These will be at the same place but possibly at a new time of 5 PM instead of 5:30, starting in October – we’ll let you know (and tell us your thoughts if it makes a difference for you!).

Sunday, Sept. 12, 11 AM to 5 PM, MARV tabling at the Outpost Wellness Fest at Hart Park Pavilion, 7300 Chestnut St., Wauwatosa.

Saturday, Nov. 20, Pre-Thanksgiving Feast.

There will be no macrobiotic potluck in September. We’ll keep you posted about October.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"[A]s you point out…eating meat is ‘behind virtually every major category of environ-mental damage now threatening the human future…’ People who care about the future need to look beyond low-flow shower heads and hybrid cars and examine the personal choice that has the most far-reaching effect on the environment – their diet."

-- Julianna Baker, in a letter to the Sept.-Oct. 2004 WorldWatch magazine.

NEWS

As usual, there is a variety of ways in which foods, and not just animal foods, can be bad. For one thing, a new study shows that the misshapen proteins called prions can indeed replicate themselves when introduced to a new host, pretty much confirming the theory of the cause and transmission of mad cow disease and its analogs in other species including ours. But as our readers all know, this confirmation comes way too late to prevent the problem here. A different way in which animal husbandry in this country is an ongoing problem was exemplified in a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel headline about farm manure spills causing massive fish kills in southwestern Wisconsin in July. Then there’s the news that deadly bird flu (which killed 27 people in Thailand and Vietnam earlier this year) can spread to pigs as well. But you don’t have to eat undercooked factory-farmed eggs to get salmonella poisoning: two children were sickened recently by salmonella merely from handling illegally sold turtles. And Prevention magazine did a very depressing article on food poisoning from vegetables, pointing out that it can come from feces-contaminated wash water and inadequate hand-washing on the part of food preparers, both of which can be worsened by leaving food sitting out. Interestingly, their recommendations include changes in federal policy and inspection schedules as well as strict kitchen cleanliness at home.

Again, it was not the chicken but the glass and plastic found in the Stouffers chicken pot pies that forced their recall – though this might not have deterred the sideshow performer who eats glass as part of his performance; he merely explains that he never eats glass on an empty stomach (and distinctly recommends NOT trying glass-eating at home). In a different vein, Prevention reported on an Australian study which reinforces that the trans-fatty acids in hydrogenated oils really do raise one’s risk of heart disease and diabetes; the sources of trans-fats were named as cake mixes, cereal and energy bars, chips, crackers, dried soups, fast food, frozen entrees, margarine, nondairy creamers and whipped topping, and packaged cookies, doughnuts, pies, cakes, and candy (not surprising – just depressing).

Prevention also mentioned three food dangers, all of which are animal foods: raw milk, raw oysters, and microwaving hard-boiled eggs (they can explode).

A plant food that is getting much criticism these days is refined sugar: a recent finding of the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study determined that women who drank one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day doubled their risk of developing diabetes (and getting fat).

It is apparently because of this new data that previews of the new USDA dietary guidelines that will be released next year are indicating that science may have finally partly prevailed over industry lobbying: the fine print, at least, will acknowledge that added sugar should be pretty much avoided. Generally speaking, in fact, the new guidelines have some reasonable and commendable features, suggesting that people cut calories and salt, eat more whole grains, and exercise. And what with the Olympics and the Pyramid, I’ve seen several dietary reports lately advising people to eat breakfast every day. The general consensus is that it should consist of whole grains and some protein and a tiny bit of fat, so as to prevent sudden mid-morning hunger that could cause uncontrolled munching on fattening empty calories. It’s only the most dedicated athletes, they say, who need a lot of extra food to compensate for burning far more calories in their workouts than normal people ever do. At the same time, though, a worrisome report from a Burlington, WI survey found that nearly a fifth of school children there simply do not get enough food.

On a different tack, a recent analysis of 20 controlled studies involving over 200,000 people has shocked the analysts who did it by determining that there is no benefit in taking supplements/ pills of vitamin C and E and beta-carotene – all known to help the heart and circulation. Yet the evidence still remains clear that eating foods which provide these vitamins (think fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) is in-deed very good for you, and beneficial in pre-venting heart attacks and strokes. And on a very similar note, the NY Times did an article in late August asking whether soy is safe when used as a hormone substitute. Happily, we can report that after reviewing the issue at length, the article concluded that eating a serving or two per day of soy foods is quite safe, though supplements of isolated soy hormones are indeed very questionable. And an article in the Aug. 30 Time magazine looked at people who live 100 years or more, discussing at length a study of elderly Okinawans; it is certainly true that many lifestyle factors contribute to their healthy old ages, but the fact that they do eat more soy foods than any other population on earth does suggest that doing so is not at all bad for you. The not-so-secret strategies of really old yet healthy people seem to involve eating lots of fruits and vegetables, really limiting salt, getting plenty of fiber (whole grains and veggies), not being fat, being physically active and fit, having many strong community ties, and keeping mentally alert. It is very much in line with these facts that Delicious Living magazine reported on a cancer researcher’s advice for preventing cancer: eat a very low-fat diet with lots of vegetables/ antioxidents and very few meat and dairy products.

Speaking of antioxidents, Prevention was once again singing the praises of green tea; the antioxident present in it has been found to help kill cancer cells and prevent the development of new plaque on artery walls. And vitamin E, another antioxident nutrient, was determined by a new study to help cut bladder cancer risk. It is found in association with fat, and thus gives you an excuse to eat nuts such as almonds and seeds such as sunflower seeds (and also mango and papaya). Yet the Sunday food section of the Milwaukee newspaper managed to do a feature on olives (a source of healthy oil and therefore almost necessarily of vitamin E) without mentioning their nutritional value except to say that they are now known to be healthy.

Delicious Living did a sequence of articles on fixing difficult life-situations, some of which had food-related components. For weight control, for example, drinking plenty of water was recommended, as well as eating lots of organic fruits and vegetables to satisfy hunger while providing nutrients instead of empty calories – and eating a little chocolate at the end of the meal for luxury and satisfaction when you’re too full to overindulge. In another segment, vitamin C foods (veggies and fruits again) were recommended to help fight stress. On the other hand, if you’re eating to boost energy, 9 out of 10 of the article’s recommended foods are vegetarian: almonds, blueberries, dates, edamame (green soybeans), flaxseed, mangoes, oatmeal, plain low-fat yogurt, and cottage cheese. And another source (an Out-post Exchange article), suggested adding bananas as a source of quick energy, especially if mashed with a little honey and avocado and served on oat biscuits.

CONNECTIONS

First, an erratum of sorts: We reported last month on resources for veganics, the craft of gardening organically but without animal inputs. We received an email correcting our report. Apparently one of the references – to the Center for Vegan Organic Education – was a misunderstanding on our part of an effort which has in any case ceased to exist. Sorry about that.

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The Humane Farming Association is working on exposing some really nasty practices at a hog factory farm in Nebraska. They are asking people to write to The Honorable Jon Bruning, Office of the Attorney General, 2115 State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509, to thank him for investigating the abuse of pigs at the pig production facility in Wausa, Nebraska, and to ask that those responsible for the abuses there be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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Finally, FARM (the people who organize the Great American Meat-Out) remind us that Oct. 2 has been named World Farm Animals Day, and that anyone who wants to be part of an activity around that should get in touch with them.

DIALOG

I was rather depressed by the Prevention article mentioned above, which sounded the alarm about the possibilities of getting sick from salads, fruits, and vegetables. After all, one of the things I’ve been smug about for years is that, since there’s no meat in our kitchen, I don’t have to worry much about food-borne illness. And now they tell me to worry after all! Bummer!

I’m also confused, however. Because the truth is that, contrary to much earnest advice, I almost never wash organically grown produce, and I do eat my over-easy eggs with the yolks not fully cooked. And I’ve never gotten sick from any of it!

Am I just plain dumb lucky? Am I a refugee from the law of averages? Or is there more to the story than "beware of produce too!"? Is it a real safety factor that much of our produce is either from one of two subscription farms or my own garden, and my eggs are from free-range chickens never given routine antibiotics? Does it help that my immune system is up and running? (But in that case, Chuck should have gotten sick from what we eat during the period when his immune system was down, and yet we ate at the same table and he did not in fact develop any food poisoning during that interval.) Or could it be that the horrible and well-publicized incidents of food poisoning from scallions or salads are much rarer than the sensational news reports would suggest? We do note that our daughter and son-in-law have gotten sick from the steak joint’s salad bar – but that was a set-up where cross-contamination was distinctly likely. Am I just telling myself what I wish were so, or could it be that when meat and mayonnaise are not present, produce is usually pretty safe, making reasonable alertness without serious anxiety good enough to keep us okay?