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June 2007

 


GREETINGS

We did, at the May potluck, discuss where to hold this year’s Pre-Thanksgiving Feast, and there was a consensus of folks present to try for the County Park Wiloway building at Underwood Park in Wauwatosa. The application has accordingly been sent out. We requested Sunday, Nov. 18 as our first choice, with Saturday, Nov. 17 as our second choice if Sunday is not available. We have held the Feast on Saturday some years and Sunday on others, and have not been able to track a serious difference as far as attendance and convenience: Saturday is likelier to be a conflict with other events, while Sunday is the day before going back to work on Monday (although the Feast is early enough for people to get home to bed in a timely fashion).

A consistent complaint at past Feasts has been the throwaway paper plates we’ve often used, and I am therefore now actively investigating whether we’ll be able to get compostable plates at reasonable prices for this year. Another option for plates (since none of the county park buildings has dishes and dishwashers) is for people to bring their own plates from home. These two possibilities are not mutually exclusive, although the logistics remain to be worked out. But we want people to know that we are trying to respond to their voiced concerns!

M.A.R.V. ACTIVITIES

Sunday, June 3, 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. There will be a non-dairy ice cream tasting.

Subsequent regular potlucks will be on July 1 (topic of no-added-fat dishes), August 5, September 2, October 7, November 4, and December 2.

Other veg-friendly potlucks

I have not heard whether or not there will be a macrobiotic potluck in June. Pat O’Neill would know: (414) 964-9759.

The Urban Ecology Center’s vegetarian potluck will be on Thursday, June 14, at 6:30 PM. Bring plate and fork as well as your meatless dish. Phone (414) 964-8505.

Call the Cloughertys at (414) 355-7383 to find out about a raw foods potluck.

QUOTES OF THE MONTH

University of Chicago scientists estimate that a person who consumes a mixed animal-plant diet instead of an all-plant diet has the same extra impact on global warming annually as a typical passenger car driven 4,000 miles.”

-- Organic Gardening, June/July 2007

The health benefits associated with eating more vegetables and fruits and less meat are indisputably clear. In general, vegetarians consume less saturated fats, cholesterol and animal protein than people on an average American diet, and they consume higher levels of fiber, magnesium, folate, vitamins C and E, carotenoids and phytochemicals. Specifically, studies have shown a positive link between eating a vegetarian diet and a reduced risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, coronary artery disease and some types of cancer.”

-- A Whole Foods flyer

NEWS

The scandal about Chinese animal food contamination continued from last month. There were additional recalls of pet food, but even more excitingly, it was revealed that the contaminated feed had also been given to hogs and chickens being raised for meat, thus entering the human food supply. However, China announced that the problem had been fixed, and U.S. government officials declared that the tainted animal feed should not sicken people who eat these animals, so these creatures will be slaughtered and sold for food. Breaking news: the Chinese official responsible for this mess (among others) has been sentenced to death. Yet meanwhile, California officials declared that health risks would be “minimal” for people eating pork from a hog farm where industrial chemicals were found in the pigs.

In other worrisome animal news, Canada found mad cow disease again, this time in an animal only 50 months old. Yet the U.S. and Canada are pushing their trading partners to accept beef exports anyway, claiming that they are safe. They actually seem to be making some headway with Japan, where Japanese experts decided that young cows infected with mad cow disease do not pose a threat to humans eating their meat. (??)

A different concern with livestock raising continues to be e. coli contamination of vegetables. A Wisconsin State Farmer article on the great value of manure for improving the soil in which vegetables are grown nonetheless warned that manure should be fully composted, or else applied more than 120 days before harvest, and should never include pet or human wastes. Other news on this issue focused on the question of regulation, with a couple of articles in the New York Times suggesting that there really needs to be better government oversight of how food is grown and handled. And then there was the NIH scientist who opined that we should simply vaccinate everyone against the dangerous form of e. coli, while a Canadian biotech executive said it should be the cows that get inoculated….

Speaking of cows and food contamination, there was a recall of four-cheese risotto sold by Target stores. On the other hand, it is good news that the Dairy Council is ending its ad campaign that linked milk-drinking to weight loss. There is some evidence that eating calcium may help in losing weight, but the FTC ruled that the link with drinking milk is too tenuous to put in print.

Then there was the brouhaha in the New York Times about the safety of veganism. It started with an op-ed article by farmgirl-turned-vegan-turned-dairy-booster Nina Planck, who seized on a sad case of a baby who died after being starved by vegan parents and turned that into a polemic against veganism which asserted that fetuses and babies cannot be adequately nourished without animal foods. Half a dozen responding letters were printed, most of which stoutly explained the wholesomeness of vegan diets at all stages in life – although there were two from people who agreed with Planck’s slanders.

Other issues included concerns about genetically modified crops: Greenpeace announced that it found illegal GM corn in a U.S. shipment to Europe, while in San Francisco a federal judge halted the sale of genetically altered alfalfa. And there were also concerns about organic food sales, with consumer fraud investigators in Wisconsin confirming the Cornucopia Institute’s complaints that WalMart was deliberately selling conventional produce as organic, and Dean Foods shareholders complaining that the company’s Horizon Organic brand is really using factory-farming techniques and thus violating consumer trust, which jeopardizes share value. And a different matter that just might turn out to be about organic growing involves honey bees. It has become news lately that honeybee hives are experiencing sudden mass die-offs. But a report by the Organic Consumers Association puts a new light on the issue: it seems that all the die-offs have been among the hives of highly-bred bees that are transported thousands of miles and regularly fumigated with pesticides in the effort to control mites, while organic beekeepers who keep ordinary honeybees without chemicals and try to emulate the bees’ natural lives are not seeing die-offs. If true, this would be a great relief to everyone who eats bee-pollinated foods (which is all of us).

On a different note, a warning was issued that this year’s local rhubarb stalks, which were hit with an unusually hard frost in April, might be toxic to eat. It is generally known that rhubarb leaves have too much oxalic acid to be safe, but it seems that if the leaves are frost-blackened, the oxalic acid can migrate to the usually-edible stalks.

Nonetheless, plant foods are generally good for you.

New research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ convention found that 100% pure fruit juice does not contribute to childhood obesity, and does provide valuable nutrients. The trick is to be a careful label reader, and only use juice that really is 100% fruit juice.

Both Delicious Living and Prevention ran items about building strong bones. Their recommendations went beyond getting enough calcium from foods like figs, Brussels sprouts and other dark leafy greens, beans, tofu, and almonds as well as fortified oj and soy milk (and dairy foods), and pointed out the other nutrients needed for the job. These include vitamin K (in dark green leaves), vitamin D from sunshine and supplements, magnesium from foods like pumpkin seeds, omega-3 fatty acids from dark green leaves, flaxseeds, hemp seed oil, and walnuts; and copper, manganese, iron, zinc, and vitamin C.

Prevention had an item pointing out that cloudy apple juice has almost four times as many cancer-fighting antioxidents as clear apple juice. It also ran an article on the value of probiotics in boosting the immune system, preventing antibiotic-caused diarrhea, reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and controlling both eczema and vaginal infections. The article discussed yogurt, but vegans can get the exact same benefit from soy yogurt with active cultures – the probiotics come from the “active cultures” in either case.

Two different studies found health benefits in moderate alcohol consumption: one found that it may help lower bad LDL cholesterol, while another found that about one drink a day seemed to lower risk of one kind of kidney cancer. And yet another new study confirmed that people who eat lots of whole grains have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Spices are another set of vegetable foods, and a Prevention article discussed their health benefits. Turmeric can help ease arthritis, and may also help prevent both colon cancer and Alzheimer's disease, while cinnamon helped diabetics in a German study to lower their blood sugar and might also help lower cholesterol. Rosemary may help protect against cancer, as basil, ginger, and garlic also seem to do; ginger has long been used as well to prevent nausea. Finally, both basil and St. John’s Wort can help combat stress and promote sound sleep.

CONNECTIONS

It’s that time of year when the North American Vegetarian Society announces its upcoming Summerfest conference. Summerfest 2007 will feature many exciting speakers and workshops as well as entertainment, great vegan food, and major networking opportunities. And if some MARV person wants to attend as our group’s designated delegate (MARV is a NAVS affiliate), that person can get a discount on the fee.

If you’re interested in attending, call me (Louise) at (414) 962-2703, or come to the next potluck, or you can contact NAVS directly at PO Box 72, Dolgeville, NY 13329 or vegfest@telenet.net.

DIALOG

I. “Local is the New Organic”

At its start, organic growing was a way to have food obtained otherwise than through the agri-industrial system: small-scale and family-farmed rather than huge, faceless and ecologically destructive. But as organic food catches on, industrial-scale organic agriculture has developed. This is surely better than industrial-scale chemically-poisoned food, but it’s not quite the farmer-friendly thing we had in mind. And it floats on a sea of oil.

In backlash to these realizations, people are increasingly talking about wider considerations in socially- and ecologically-aware eating. There are books about families eating only food that is grown in their bioregion. E Magazine

ran an article with grocery shopping tips like buying locally sourced but also fair-traded and peasant-coop-produced foods, foods with minimum packaging, and natural cleaning products.

Delicious Living ran an item about seasonal produce. Their ideas, plus my own experience of what’s seasonal when, suggest: In Winter, eat kiwis, citrus fruits, leeks, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, and apples; in Spring start with asparagus, then lettuce, spinach, peas, radishes, and scallions. In June the strawberries come in, then apricots, cherries, other berries, stone fruits, green beans, summer squash, cucumbers, early onions, new potatoes, melons, corn, tomatoes, grapes. Garlic is harvested in July and cured, then the broccoli and winter squashes start, and pears, beets, sweet potatoes, new carrots, and Brussels sprouts.

Finally, some restaurants are starting to offer filtered local tap water instead of bottled. In which regard.…

II. Water Conservation

As human populations grow, we are finally hitting water shortages in a serious way, and I’ve seen several articles recently giving tips on how individuals should and can conserve it: shorter showers, fewer flushes or low-flush plumbing, etc. They make crucial sense if your water comes from an aquifer, or snow-melt into streams. However. If your water comes from the Metro Milwaukee Sewerage District, it is taken out of Lake Michigan, cleaned up, sent to your tap, and then whatever goes down the drain is cleaned up again and put back into the lake. Minimize water use that does not go down the drain (lawn-watering, car-washing, etc.) – but water down the drain in MMSD raises your water bills because you’re simply paying to clean our lake’s water, twice.