Our PreThanksgiving Feast has taken place. We
had just about 150 people, a delicious and varied vegan spread, and a good time
all around. Thanks go to Jean Groshek, Mary Brennan, Jean Horvath, Josephine,
Cindy Juds, Barbara and Stan Weiss, Nancy Steinhage, Kathleen Mohr, Wanda Embar,
Gary Sapiro, Judy Strampe, Dustin Paluch, and Mary Beth Koenigs, and extra
especially to !Jody Johnson!
We did make money, enough to fund us for the
coming year, though a bit less than might have been hoped due to the fact that
nearly everyone preferred to bring a dish to pass and therefore pay $5 per
person instead of $10. Perhaps next year the fee structure should be $6
and $10 instead – if we had done that this year, it would have brought in an
extra $130 with probably no extra hardship for anyone. What do people think?
Another interesting note came from the comment
cards. Three different people wrote that they wished we would hold more south
side events, since driving to the Riverwest potlucks is out of their bounds but
they would like to join us more often. Do people think we should try to do
things in Bay View and South Milwaukee and other such places more often? Where?
Would that be as well as our regular potlucks or instead? What do people think?
Give us your feedback on these issues (and
anything else) by calling me (Louise) at (414) 962-2703 or Jody at (414)
In any case, now that winter is upon us, it’s time to start
thinking of spring, and the Great American Meat-Out on the first day thereof.
Come to the potlucks and/or call us with your ideas about that.
Sunday, Dec. 4, 5 PM, regular potluck
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.). A McDougall video will be shown.
Subsequent regular potlucks will be on Jan. 8, Feb. 2, and
Other veg-friendly potlucks
The next macrobiotic potluck will be at
Allen Owen’s place, 5310 W. Loomis Rd. in Greendale, on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 5:30
PM. Phone (414) 421-1725.
The Urban Ecology Center is advertising a vegetarian
potluck on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6:30 PM. Their address is 1500 E. Park Pl. just
west of N. Oakland Ave. on the east side; phone (414) 964-8505.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“There is No Mad Tofu Disease.”
-- new bumper sticker from the Syracuse Cultural Workers “Tools
for Change” catalog
There were a couple of big stories this month
in the Bad Animal Food News department. One of them involved various
maneuverings around beef. A Japanese panel (heavily pressured by the U.S) ruled
U.S. beef safe to import again, even as the Bush administration is looking to
lift the last restrictions on importing Canadian beef into this country.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin State Farmer ran a whole article on how good “crisis
management” helped keep Americans eating their beef despite last winter’s
discovery of a case of mad cow here. Is it all enough to make one wonder about
how well governments look out for citizens? Especially in the light of a Nov. 9
Government Accountability Office report which stated that testing of feed given
to cattle is inadequate to keep contaminated feed out of the system. But we
don’t need mad cow disease to worry about beef: there was also a news item about
a recall of over 94,000 pounds of frozen beef patties made by Quaker Maid Meats,
due to the possibility of e. coli contamination. And a new European study
confirmed that the more red and processed meat one eats, the higher one’s risk
for colorectal cancer.
Another big and ongoing story focused on bird
flu, which seems to be mostly a problem of people being in close contact with
birds raised for food. Japan repeatedly announced plans to slaughter huge
numbers of chickens to try to prevent an outbreak, while Thailand, Indonesia,
and China reported cases of humans with the disease. On this side of the
Pacific, the Wisconsin state government, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Dept.
of Agriculture are all getting set to combat a disease which has not yet
appeared here, and which one person opined would not be likely to arrive, since
wild birds that might carry it could not easily transmit it to the birds raised
for food here: most such animals spend their lives confined indoors. In fact,
it is generally acknowledged that risks of a great human pandemic from this bird
disease are really quite low, yet that hasn’t stopped public officials from
raising fears about it.
Two other news items I saw related to milk – a
vegetarian but not vegan food. One discussed Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
ideas to get more kids to drink more milk, including trying to introduce
flavored milks into schools on the grounds that this would both sell more milk
and be better for kids than soft drinks and sugared fruit drinks. The other news
item worried about an FDA proposal to adulterate cow milk by allowing processors
to use milk from other creatures than cows for making dairy products such as ice
cream and sherbet.
Prevention had a couple of items about
bad foods that were not necessarily meaty. One pointed out that the high
fructose corn syrup found in most processed foods these days is extremely
fattening, and probably part of the reason for this country’s obesity epidemic.
The other reported that public school cafeteria favorites are not good
nutrition: school principals reported that kids tended to choose cookies, cakes,
and other baked goods, pizzas and ham-burgers, French fries, chips and similar
salty snacks, and sodas and sugary fruit drinks.
On another note, the Associated Press
distributed a story about people who get all their food by scrounging through
garbage. After all, stores often throw out food that is perfectly edible but at
or near its “sell-by” date. And these folks call themselves “freegans” in a
combination of “free” and “vegan.” In fact, not all are vegan or even
vegetarian, but one doctor with the Humane Society has posted safety tips on
their website (www.freegan.info) which warn freegans to avoid meat, seafood,
eggs, and dairy, as well as cut melon and unpasteurized cider and juice.
Meanwhile, there is, as always, much good news
about plant foods. Cranberries and sweet potatoes are featured produce this
month, and not just for their seasonality and good taste. Cranberries are full
of cancer-preventive, heart-healthy antioxidents, as well as tannins that keep
bacteria from sticking to cells and thus protect gums, intestines, and the
urinary tract from infections. Bright orange sweet potato flesh contains loads
of beta-carotene (from which your body makes immune-system-enhancing vitamin A),
plus vitamins C and E and plenty of antioxidents, fiber, and potassium –yet
they’re low in sodium and calories, and don’t make your blood sugar jump despite
their sweetness. What more could anyone ask?
DeliciousLiving ran an article on type
2 diabetes, which included a list of strategies for preventing it: eat
carotenoids (found in orange, red, pink, and yellow produce); eat
chromium-containing foods such as broccoli, mushrooms, whole grains, and
brewer’s yeast; get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight and/or D-fortified milks
including soy; and get vitamin E from dark green leafies, avocados, nuts and
An item in Prevention noted that women
who eat little meat are only half as likely to be over-weight as omnivores – and
vegans are two-thirds less likely. And Prevention also ran an interesting
article on common mistakes people make in trying to choose foods that are
healthy. For example, buying “multigrain” foods with-out reading the ingredients
label right may give you a combination of several refined grains: to eat well
you need to look for “100% whole grain” on the label. Bottled water laced
with vitamins may not have enough vitamins to be worth it – while containing
many empty calories; water plus good food or a multivitamin is a better choice.
Similarly, veggie chips are seldom much more nutritious than potato chips,
unless the vegetable is the only ingredient, and fruit leather “made with real
fruit” is usually not made with enough of it to count (plain dried fruit, on the
other hand, is just as sweet and is in fact nutritious). “Less salt” products
are often not enough less to make a difference, though “low in sodium” products
may be better. Fat-free milk is often recommended (for those who drink cows’ milk at all)
-- but it turns out that if the container is glass or
translucent plastic, light shining on it can break down vitamins A, B2, D, and E
and even amino acids; cardboard containers should be chosen. Granola bars are
basically candy, not food – and definitely not a good substitute for break-fast.
That healthy glass of wine or beer can contribute to high blood pressure if
taken on an empty stomach. And frugally reheating restaurant leftovers should be
done only in a microwave-safe glass or ceramic bowl; other substances including
many take-home containers leach nasty chemicals into the food when
Prevention ran an item that reported on a new Tufts
University study which found that eating empty carbohydrates (i.e., refined
grains and sugars) increased the risk of developing cataracts, while a Harvard
study found that eating at least 3.5 servings a day of high-antioxident fruits
and vegetables lowers cataract risk. On a different note, another article
reported on different teas. Black, green, and newcomer white teas all contain
disease-protective poly-phenols and antioxidents, but white tea is least refined
and has the most of these, while black tea has healthy theaflavins which form
when the polypehnols ferment.
Finally, DeliciousLiving featured some less-used grains: barley, oats,
amaranth, quinoa, and teff. Most of these tend to be eaten as whole grains, and
are full of protein (amaranth, quinoa), iron (teff, quinoa, amaranth), and/or
calcium (amaranth, teff), while barley and oats help lower cholesterol, and all
improve overall health and reduce disease risk.
Many years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter, and the
spate of nutritional research that gave rise to the Food Guide Pyramid was
barely a gleam in a few nutritionists’eyes, and all we had was the Four Food
Groups (half of which were animal foods), one – and only one – of many Eating
For Pregnancy books that I read suggested getting all one’s nutrients from food
rather than relying on The Prenatal Multivitamin Pill. This book was the
guideline that I ended up following – but the only way I could do that was to
make a point of eating good nutrient-dense food and avoiding empty calories most
assiduously. It was a starting point for me in my nutritional journey. I
switched from white flour bread to 100% whole grain, and from white rice to
brown. I taught myself not to consider it a proper meal unless there was a fruit
or vegetable in it (typically a fruit at breakfast and at least one vegetable
each with lunch and supper, plus fruits or vegetable sticks for snacks). This
still wasn’t always five to nine servings per day – but it was an improvement. I
first learned from this book that dark green leafy vegetables are a special and
important food category in them-selves, and began to make a point of eating
them. And so, without even focusing on it, I began the switch from a Standard
American diet to a whole foods one. My next epiphany came about four years
later, when I harvested my first set of organic green beans from my garden and
was shocked at how different they tasted from commercial ones. Better, I soon
felt, but not what I’d grown up with. And then, of course, I married the vegan, and gradually left
For a long time, my eating habits were distinctly eccentric
for our society. But society is catching up to me. The market for organic foods
is exploding, for one thing, still showing double-digit growth each year. And
more and more over the past three or four years, nutritional research is
catching up with what I’ve been doing for so long. Finally, research is finding
that whole foods provide necessary fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are
lacking from refined foods. Finally, the phytochemicals in produce and tea
(phenols, sulfanimides, antioxidents, etc., etc.) are being touted for all kinds
of health-enhancing effects – and it ‘s being recognized that refining out one
or another of these substances often fails to pro-duce the same health effects
as eating the whole food. Finally, attention is being paid to fiber, and the
fact that fiber is best gotten by eating whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Finally, vegetarianism’s health benefits are surfacing in research findings, and
being reported. And there are new discoveries, such as the difference between
good fats and bad fats, and the value of omega-3 fatty acids – and these too
indicate that whole vegetarian organic foods are the way to go. I feel sooo
I have certainly had a stiff lesson lately in the fact that even the best diet
and lifestyle does not guarantee perfect health. What I’m sure it does do is
promote the best health that you can have given your circumstances, and
certainly decreases greatly your risk of much disease. And when disease does
strike, that healthy diet favors the speediest recovery possible.