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first food

Yesterday, while I was leaving work, my friends wished me a nice weekend, acknowledging that I was taking today off in honor of my birthday. Happy Birthday they chimed while sweetly presenting me with a sunflower plant. As I have for the past twenty seven years when asked about birthday plans, I am apt to explain that it is also my son’s birthday. Though my day’s celebration is no longer actively intertwined with his as it was when he was young, I cannot extricate my birth from his.SSPX01991

When I mentioned this, Josie commented how for every parent, the birth day (or receiving day) of their first child marks their own re-birth as well, no matter the confluence of dates. It is the day that changes profoundly everything that may have preceded it. This is quite true. Cathy added that she birthed her first child exactly at the moment Mount St. Helena’s volcano erupted in 1980! While distanced by an entire continent, for her the event was no less spectacular.

Still, I remain as tickled and surprised by my calendrical coincidence of blazing glory incarnation as I was the mid-summer night it occurred. And, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I enjoy that the date I first brought babe to breast coincides with World Breastfeeding Week/Breastfeeding Awareness Month. As a matter with so many implications for health, nutrition, and societal well being, and one rife with dilemmas, I try to bring attention to this important activism each year. Thanks to Mary Ellen, here’s a nice little video about First Food that helps give perspective to the story of infant feeding.

This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work. Its focus is on furthering support for nursing women working in formal, non-formal or home settings so as they can continue to breastfeed their babies and maintain their right to breastfeed. The need to return to work–exacerbated by the lack of mandated and satisfactory maternity leave policies–is one of the main factors why women stop nursing. The initiatives associated with this year’s campaign highlight and advocate for improved national and state labor laws and practices; employer awareness and compliance with existing laws; and ways to create clean, comfortable, private and safe areas for women to nurse or to express breast milk in the workplace.

It is encouraging to witness that some real strides are being made. Government agencies, global health organizations, national groups and local coalitions have been working hard so that women do not have to stop nursing their babies in order to keep food on the table for themselves and their families. Lactation spaces are becoming available in various public and private settings. Closets and storage areas in office and factory buildings, schools and daycare centers are being transformed into comfy lactation rooms; and crafty and caring entrepreneurs are designing nursing pods for women working, recreating, or relaxing in various field and outdoor settings.

In the fall of 2013, I attended a Nets basketball game at the then newly anointed and crazily crowded Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Navigating the many corridors along with throngs of people was not easy. Having made it up to our seats in the nosebleed section, the female contingent of my party had to then descend back down a few levels to find a bathroom. Literally relieved to find the facilities, we were also quite surprised to find a door marked ‘lactation room’. A burly guard stood by the entrance. Our supportive interest piqued, we asked him about the room. As though protecting a highly paid all star, he tersely informed us that there was someone in there. Though I wouldn’t bring my baby to such a noisy environment–unless like a family member was playing in the game or singing the national anthem–but if I did, I’d be nursing in my own seat, jumbotron cameras and all. But, for those mamas and babies who deserve a modicum of privacy and quiet dining, having such an option in such an incongruous setting is quite incredible. I wonder who there is to thank for that.

My own awareness of the many aspects of this year’s Let’s Make It Work campaign was heightened yesterday as well, when I was fortunate, as in previous years, to watch SUNY Albany’s School of Public Health/New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Supplemental Foods annual webcast presentation of Breastfeeding Ground Rounds. This was, as always, an excellent program and it highlighted many great examples of breastfeeding-friendly environments. Though it left me feeling inspired, it also reminded me how amazing women are and how damn hard they work.

Stories and images of women shlepping breast pumps and accessories to work, utilizing break and lunch time to sit in secluded rooms listening to the whir of mechanical pumps, rushing into day care centers in the middle of the workday to nurse a baby, sequestering into hidden spaces to feed their young, and negotiating with employers individually for their own rights–god bless them all.

My mixed reaction to the situation also was evident as I attempted to find an image for my new Lifeseeds Nutrition Instagram post to honor the week and encountered some difficulties. The breast feeding photos I most easily found depicted either beatific, blissed out industrialized world mothers posed in pristine settings or somber faced traditional world mothers huddled in sparse environments. Though I appreciate the beauty of both, neither captured what I was looking for– a reflection of how working mothers often feel in our modern society–weary from its many demands and yet comforted in the respite of feeding their child. I hope the one I finally chose came close.

As for my birthday, I wished really only for a little quiet me time. Though no longer tending daily to my children’s needs, with one child still in college I am still a working mom. The memories of running from baby sitter to job to various activities with a baby in tow are still pretty fresh and my plate continues to feel pretty full. Thankfully, I got what I wished for. It is a perfect sunny day and my little village is exquisitely tranquil. My front porch cradles me, and I have some time to write. Soon I will have the phone conversation with my son where we kind of simultaneously say, Happy Birthday.

Until then, wishing all the hard working mommas, and all whom support them, good nourishment of both body and soul.

In health, Elyn

Comments, thoughts and hellos welcome. Please subscribe or follow me on Instagram.

Related Posts: Blessed Feeding; To She Who Loves Us Before She Meets Us; Breastfeeding Redux; Oh MotherA Winning Goal

My Plate Plate

My Plate Plate

My Plate Haiku

hard toiling mamas

hear their hungry babies cry

breastfeeding and work–let’s make it work

by Elyn

Instanutrition

I scurried around the kitchen.There was dinner to be made. I peeled, chopped, sauteed and simmered. I sweated as the hot summer air mingled with the heat from the stove. I held an icy glass of water against my cheek. I ran the compost out back. I let the cat out. I let the cat in. 20150614_173007 (1)

My daughter sat calm and cool at the table. She asked me a few questions. She danced her fingers around a little. She called me over to look at a some things. Way sooner than the time it took for the meal to be ready and without barely moving a muscle, she created a new portal into the universe for me–by opening an Instagram account for The Nutritionist’s Dilemma. She turned the first MyPlate Haikus into little lovely portraits. She chose nice hashtags and linked this to that. She set the table. She let the cat out.

Please take a moment to enjoy my Instagram messages and to follow me on Instagram at Lifeseedsnutrition. There, I hope to highlight the little morsels of collective poetic wisdom that illuminate the experience of self-nourishment that many have contributed to my blog along with other pearls that I have gathered along the way. The concept is to cobble together a creative and meaningful expression of how feeding ourselves may look and feel. It is a conceptual revisioning of the dietary constructs of a MyPlate model of nutrition. (These messages can also be seen at the bottom of the blog’s sidebar.)

New myPlate Haikus or poetic phrases and myPlate Plates are always welcome and will be necessary for me to hold my space in this new environment. For general instructions and examples, please see Accepting Haikus. We will see how this goes. It could be fun.

Also for your viewing pleasure, here is a video of some of the ongoing work of Michelle Obama to brighten the futures of the nation’s children through nutrition and health initiatives. For the past four years, the First Lady has sponsored a rather competitive children’s Healthy Lunchtime Challenge cooking contest. Winners are chosen from each state and U.S. Territory and are treated to a Kids’ “State Dinner’ at the White House. The impressive recipes of these culinary kids are also compiled into a nice cookbook. This year’s event was held a few weeks ago and (spoiler alert) included a surprise guest.

The gathering also provided a platform for the First Lady to announce her new anti-big food advertising campaign FNV--which interestingly employs the efforts of celebrity athletes– which is something I wrote about in my last post. This initiative is also worth taking a look at. Clearly, she is committed to pulling out the stops.

Hey, I can now follow Michelle on Instagram. And who knows, maybe she might follow me. And, maybe next year, your amazing child can be a winner in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. Check it out.

As always, thank you for your support, sharing, and readership of The Nutritionist’s Dilemma.

In health, Elyn

MyPlate Plate

myPlate Plate

myPlate Haiku

Blueberry bushes

Three children with empty pails

Pluck, pluck, crunch, exhale. by Michael

spring cleaning and the NBA Finals

I recently decided to revisit some of my old posts, brush them off and bring them out for some fresh air–a kind of spring cleaning. I found a few that I have now fluffed up or polished, but this one is screaming for immediate attention.

As I write, I am sitting and watching Game 5 of the NBA finals–Cleveland Cavaliers v Golden State Warriors. The post season with the advance of Cleveland and LeBron James has necessitated this post script to “dominique et moi”. There, I wrote about my meeting with NBA legend and diabetes ambassador Dominique Wilkins on his visit to the health center where I worked. (Yes, really! Did you miss that one?)Curry Powder in India, Chronic Kidney Disease

In that meeting I asked Dominique how he felt about famous athletes using their celebrity to market unhealthy products–making reference to LeBron’s Pepsi ads which were running at that time. Though not to single out LeBron, I do find certain celebrity endorsements particularly troubling. During this year’s final rounds, LeBron has been featured in an ad for Kia automobiles. The spot starts out with him sitting alone in his kitchen, eating a bowl of cereal with a box of Fruity Pebbles prominently displayed. The milk is in a plain, round, unmarked glass bottle. Just as he raises the spoon to his mouth, his zen moment is interrupted by a maintenance worker outside the window wielding a noisy leaf blower. LeBron leaves the table, miffed that his quiet moment has been disturbed–but not before five camera shots feature the Fruity Pebbles. A few more distractions pursue him until he finally finds solace in the quiet, obviously roomy and reclining back seat of his Kia.

I have been catching up on recent seasons of Mad Men so I know how these pitches are made by ad companies. But, please can someone please tell me what marketing seduction was intended here? Does Kia own Post Foods or are they just sleeping together?  What demographic is eating kids’ cereals and buying fancy-ish cars–long legged adolescents saving their lawn mowing money? And, why is LeBron party to it all?

Ironically, recently as I watched LeBron on the court, I noticed he seemed more lean and lithe than I remembered. I turned to Pete, my source for all things sport and nutrition related. Concerned he may have missed something, I implored him to get me some scoop on LeBron’s diet. Thirty seconds later he was back to me with a report that sure enough, this incredible sport’s phenomenon was adhering to a lower carbohydrate diet and was playing minus fifteen to twenty pounds this season. I was not surprised. I knew it! No Fruity Pebbles for King James. And, I am also going to venture that he’s likely lactose intolerant and not much of a milk drinker.

Well, I do hope that these athletes heed some warning from Dominique. Not even the creme de la creme are immune from negative dietary impacts and diabetic consequences. Well, except maybe LeBron–because the way he plays, he likely is immortal. And, they should be mindful of the messages they embody through their endorsements. But, hey, what food is that his nemesis is hawking on his jersey? Curry? You mean that anti-inflammatory spice blend that may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and that contributes to some spectacular shooting?  I wonder who is marketing that.

For a look at what LeBron is really fueling on, and what he actually drives, see here.

For a look at what Steph Curry is doing to promote healthy eating, see here.

For a look at a 4-time NBA Champion’s thoughts on nutrition, see here.

In health, Elyn

OH, DEAR ME. After writing this whole thing, I went to look up the ingredients of Fruity Pebbles for a link, only to find out that Fruity Pebbles is also a LeBron James endorsed Nike Air Foamposite One sneaker!! Wow. Your thoughts?

photo (2)dominique et moi

November was Diabetes Awareness month. Or, so I am told. For me, every month is diabetes month and every day is diabetes day, as nary an hour goes by without my sharing sacred space with someone who has diabetes. Sometimes this is the shell-shocked newly diagnosed, other times, it is the weary veteran of the disease. Read more.

the tables turned

Or, how I was outed at Trader Joe’s.

So you know how the employees at Trader Joe’s are all chipper and friendly? Well, my checkout clerk on that Friday afternoon was no exception. It was the end of a long work week, and though I was tired and anxious just to get home, there was still the shopping to get done. I wove my way quickly through the store, stocking my cart well. As I rounded the final corner from the far aisle, I was glad to see that there was an open checkout lane. With the late hour and the subsiding commuter traffic, this was likely to be my last stop for the day.  refreshment-768743__180

The checkout set up at Trader Joe’s is unusual. Your cart goes one way, while you go the other. Rather than allowing for the often awkward and yet inward zen task of unloading your own groceries, here, by receiving your full cart, the clerk both unloads and scans for you. Here you come face to face with your clerk more immediately and this results in your connection unfolding both more quickly and more intimately–and usually quite cheerfully. They maintain greater contact with your food–that which you have selectively chosen to feed yourself and maybe your family–than at most regular markets.

Having just turned over custody of my cart, I suddenly found myself in a conversation about cats. Apparently, if not for her mother’s allergy, my adorable, young clerk would have a cat because she loves them. I quickly realized that the cat food I was purchasing had prompted the comment and suddenly I was revealing that I had two cats. Most people I work with everyday don’t know that about me.

I tried to bring the topic back to groceries by offering to help bag, but that resulted in a friendly argument. She counseled that I take the checkout experience as an opportunity to relax while I insisted that I did not find bagging to be stressful and that my help would expedite matters and could get me home sooner. I won that one, but clearly in the process our professional/client relationship had deepened. While I usually conduct my nutritional assessments and evaluations in the privacy of an office, this dedicated professional offered her services right in the checkout lane. As my purchases transferred rhythmically from her hands to mine, she hesitated and looked me in the eyes, and said, “Oh, I thought you were a vegetarian.”  I looked down as she passed me the plastic wrapped piece of salmon that was swimming along solo in the long queue of plant-based products.

I stuttered and stammered. Believe you me. I have stood on many a grocery style line with a keen eye going through the contents of the carts around me. I am a nutritionist so I am apt to assess for the number of essential amino acids, calculate the percentage of the daily value for manganese and vanadium–and to make judgments. But, here, the tables were turned. The little punk of a young woman had my number. The words fell clumsily from my mouth as they tried to follow orders from command central. I could have just said it was for my cats. But, instead I explained that I was a vegetarian, but that on occasion I do eat some fish. “Oh”, she corrected, “A pescetarian.” I balked as I felt I was being assigned to the wrong religion, maybe like being called a Methodist when you were in fact a Lutheran.

The arena of eating patterns does not make easy allowances for any gray areas. You either are or you aren’t. But still I doth protested. The date of this encounter coincided with my 40th anniversary of becoming a vegetarian. It was a long time ago–I was a teenager– but I am pretty certain that it was in the month of May. During these forty years, I have only once eaten meat when I chose to have a few bites of turkey at a NOFA conference in Vermont. And, a spoonful of times I have had a chicken stock soup when feeling in need of some extra fortitude.

But it is true that I have eaten fish and seafood. I have had years where I did not eat any, and in recent years have largely avoided it due to myriad reasons, but more than not it has been there as a backup. Some of these were times of surrender like when I needed to appease my mom; or when travelling made vegetarian options hard to find. But, more often it was a conscious choice–albeit a choice of exception. I mainly choose “pesce” when eating out–especially when at a seaside location; when I feel like my body needs a more dense or “yang” protein; when I think that I might benefit from a dose of fish nutrients; or when it will just be nicely satisfying. A fish-based soup on a cold winter’s night might fit this bill. I eat fish maybe once per month. That piece of salmon that I just put into my shopping bag was likely to find itself shelved in my freezer for a while and might eventually be consumed by Pete–a 41-year long vegetarian who also just occasionally eats fish.

There is no arguable rationale, but I still clamor to consider myself a vegetarian. I carry identity with this definition and it guides my ethical and social compass. In some ways it does serve as my religion and it begs many questions regarding behavior as religion is apt to do. It is most certainly my favorite cuisine and I bask in nature’s brilliance and creativity of plant offerings. Nutritionally, it seems to serve me though I have little data for comparison. Forty years of many types of beans, kernels of grains, colors of vegetables, with nary a need for a table knife most certainly buys me membership in the club–maybe within an “essentially vegetarian” or “low pescetarian” category. At least, I should not have to be explaining myself or justifying this to a random check out clerk, right?  Even if her parents are vegan and she’s been vegan her entire life as she then did go on to share with me at the end of my babbling. I would peg her at twenty two years at best, so I still have a few nuts and seeds on her.

Still, the encounter did make me ponder my attachment to this aspect of my life and what it represents. Though maintaining a non-carnivorous diet is a lot easier than it was forty years ago, with vegetarian and vegan options now more widely available and even commonplace, the whole matter of who we are as eaters has become way more complicated with many different belief systems to be an adherent to. What did I need to defend and what else would I defend so stridently?

As I finished up my bagging duties, she said, “Oh, I see you didn’t purchase many dairy products”, further assessing the plant-based percentage of my diet. She actually got a good glimpse and did a pretty good analysis. Such work is much easier from that platform instead of relying on diet recalls or scribbled and food stained dietary records as I traditionally have had to do.

I paid for the consult, I mean groceries, and loaded the bags back into the cart. I started for the exit thinking we were done. But, there was one more thing. “Oh”, she giddily exclaimed as I walked away, “I love your socks!” Once again she had surprised me. I realized I was wearing a funky yellow paisley pair that were peeking out from the bottom of my skirt and through the top of my shoes. I smiled. Maybe we could just be friends.

In health, Elyn

MyPlate Plate

MyPlate Plate

My Plate Haiku

Do you carrot all for me?

My heart beets for you, with your turnip nose and your radish face,

You are a peach. If we cantaloupe, lettuce marry.

Weed make a swell pear.

Author unknown

holistic, intuitive eating, community nutritionist seeking michael pollan

Originally posted on the nutritionist's dilemma:

A listless child, one of many kwashiorkor case... Image via Wikipedia

The time has come for me to pay homage to the food and environmental journalist and writer Michael Pollan, whose book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, partially served as the inspiration for my blog’s name. I say partially, because I am fully aware that I have been waist deep in food dilemmas way before his book came to be.

Many years ago, when I was a mere neophyte in this work, way before food and eating was the omnipresent topic that it is today, I was simultaneously working my first nutrition job with a WIC-Women, Infant and Children Program in some small town communities while also serving at a hip vegetarian cafe in a cool college town–all the while trying desperately to figure out how to feed myself. By day, I talked the language of subsidized foods; by evening I enjoyed  brown rice and salads with sunflower seeds, sprouts and lemon tahini dressing; and, by night, I chowed down more than my share of the wonderful cookies we…

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Nourish Thyself Well Day

Despite its lack of a full complement of days, the tiny month of February (from the Roman februarius or Latin februum–to purify or atone) so kindly embraces Valentine’s Day as well as Eating Disorder Awareness Week–both emotionally-laden events. The two are not ordinarily associated and their purposes may seem disparate, but, with a little tweaking, I think that each celebration might find a friend in the other or a rationale for their coincidence.

February from my window

February from my window

To sort this out a little, let’s acknowledge that Valentine’s Day is a veritable Hallmark Card hootenanny, with messages cloyingly sweet and with a power so strong that it provokes the panicked purchase of chocolates and roses in hopes of successfully and sufficiently demonstrating one’s love for the “other”. While we celebrate Valentine’s Day’s High Middle Ages Chaucerian and 18th-century traditions of courtly love, the holiday has deeper, darker and rather confusing origins. It aligns on the Roman calendar with the celebration of Lupercallia and on the Christian liturgical calendar with the honoring of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus for whom several martyrdom stories were associated–only some of which were tinged with elements of romantic love (Wikipedia).

Eating Disorder Awareness Week commands no shelf space in the greeting card aisle, passes without widespread recognition–and certainly has no such reckless exchange of confections. However, in bringing forth awareness of the prevalence of eating disorders and avenues for treatment and healing, it does have cause for celebration as well. It shines light on these complex and misdirected eating behaviors which thrive in the vampire-esque darkness of secrecy and shame. It serves to bring support to the many who struggle alone–those who battle too in martyr-like fashion against these soul and life-threatening conditions.

Both our desire for romance and the rigid control (and lack thereof) of eating disorders express the longings of the fragile little hearts that beat within all of us. They share opposite sides of the same coin of our need for love. While Valentine’s sentiments relate to one’s love for the “other”, eating disorders expose the imbalance manifested when we lack capacity to love the “self”. Apparently, we cannot quite master one without the other. Eating Disorder Awareness Week provides hope that one can nurture successfully and sufficiently such requisite self-love, while Valentine’s Day might (and should) remind that we can love ourselves as well as others.

A number of years ago, while I was working on a college campus–an environment where eating disorders are more widely acknowledged–I created an activity which was part of a series of events being held during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. By means of various campus communications and a distributed flyer with a banner stating, “Life is too short to waste time hating our bodies”, I brought forth “Nourish Thyself Well Day”. The name implied a broader sense of nourishment and did not distinguish between “well” as an adverb or adjective. The concept was to present a challenge to the self-limiting thoughts and behaviors regarding our diets and our bodies that rob us of our health and well-being. Believing that most of us carry around at least a handful of these, I asked people (anyone and everyone) for just one day to choose a body-affirming or nourishment-providing action that held meaning for one’s personal issues or struggles.

Recently, I came upon the flyer and the list of the suggestions I proposed at that time. They included:

I will not weigh myself today * I will eat when I feel hungry * I will not use food to cover my emotions * I will not diet today * I will not eat/use nutrient-deficient diet foods * I will ask a friend for support if I need it * I will not associate guilt or shame with eating certain foods * I will listen to my body and respond to its needs * I will enjoy hot cooked foods * I will welcome foods with fats * I will honor my right to be an eater * I will have dessert * I will eat slowly and stop when full * I will not entertain starvation throughout the day*  I will not say anything negative about my body or my eating * I will not say anything negative about anyone else’s body or diet * I will not judge my value based on the scale * I will acknowledge my true value.

In revisiting this list, I recognize it has some limitations and does not fully capture the possibilities and alternatives available to us in redirecting or re-imagining how we behave around or think about these issues. At the time, I could only fit so many ideas on the page and I had no mechanism for receiving any feedback. I only released it as an intention that it would seep its way through some crack or crevice and find its way to someone who might find some meaning in it for themselves. I hope it did.

And, so now, in this time between Valentine’s Day and Eating Disorder Awareness Week (which falls this year from February 22nd through 28th–with the theme, “I Had No Idea”), I send the intention of “Nourish Thyself Well Day” out on its own once again. I hope dear little February can handle another event–albeit, a made up one–and one that is really just an extension of the others. Besides, it has been a really frigid winter, and we can all use an excuse for anything that may warm the heart–and lighten the burden.

With hand on heart, feel free to choose your own day to celebrate “Nourish Thyself Well Day”, pick from the above suggestions or create your own, and welcome the experience of shifting old embedded patterns and beliefs.

In health and with much love, Elyn

Heidi's Plate

Heidi’s Plate

My Plate Haiku (or any other poetic form)

Love is a deeper season

Than reason

My Sweet One.

by e.e. cummings

where has all the produce gone?

Perhaps it is due to the recent one year anniversary of the passing of Pete Seeger that has this title coming to mind–but this is something I have been thinking about for a while.

I have had a few experiences lately, where a brilliant idea of mine that I have kept gestating in some corner of my mind, waiting for just the right labor to bring forth, is birthed by someone else–and I read about it somewhere. I hate when that happens, especially as brilliance is not my forte and such ideas are few and far between. And, so now I must act quicker to share–and thus take credit–for these rare flashes of genius. 

As you may know, I have been swimming around in this primordial soup for many years–somewhat akin to, um, yes, let me see, ah yes, the great Soviet biologist Alexander Oparin–father of the primordial soup theory–seeking answers to some of life’s most pressing questions. While Mr. Oparin had been searching for the origin of life on Earth, I am anxious to find solution to this little problem of sanely feeding the carbon-ignited populace of whom he divined the spark.

I was already concocting my own brilliant idea when a friend sent me this article, Can America Learn to Love Misshapen Veggies? by Elizabeth Segran. It is about the vision of Doug Rauch–the former president of Trader Joe’s– to create markets for oft misshapen produce and other food that might otherwise be headed prematurely and unnecessarily into the waste stream. Having seen the high degree of such waste and the exorbitant cost of such a loss while hunger is rampant in our country, he is experimenting with opening grocery stores that would sell such abandoned produce at low-cost in high-need neighborhoods. He seems to know a thing or two about the grocery business, and I am glad to learn of his concern and his efforts. Maybe he’ll like my idea–it is along the same lines.

You see, kind of like Sisyphus, I am among those dedicated to rolling a giant Hubbard squash up to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down again–ceaselessly repeating the effort. Sisyphus’ fate “as much through his passions as through his torture”–is similar to the plight of the modern-day nutritionist. “Eat your vegetables!”, we implore. “Three cups a day!” “Eat all the colors of the rainbow!”  We beg, we cajole, we try to be cute. We strive mightily to bring the veggies to the people, but we can’t make them eat. (Horses on the other hand accept them rather well.) Undaunted, like Sisyphus, we perforce keep trying.

Albert Camus, in The Myth of Sisyphus states that the gods had condemned Sisyphus to his labor, reasoning that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor. But, he continues, “If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals.” Ah! My personal interpretation of the text provides some vindication for our insanity.

Vegetables can be daunting to buy, prepare and cook. They can be expensive. When they go bad they look quite sad. Certain vegetables require strong muscles, a good set of sharp knives, and a certain finesse to commandeer properly. As a food group they are complex and complicated, and many times a relationship with them must be carefully nurtured. Some challenge the taste buds with a propensity to be bitter or earthy. Plus,they often carry baggage from our collective childhoods.

But, they are so gooooood! And, rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, Omega-3s, enzymes and phytonutrients to help our hearts, bones, skin, hydration and mood–they are good for us! The benefits of a plant-rich diet are well established, and with so many different types, including what I might like to think of as starter kit vegetables for the disinclined, there are plenty for all to enjoy and benefit from–in spite of early experiences. But, with so many real and perceived obstacles, to the chagrin of Mr. Rauch and myself–many march needlessly to their unconsumed demise, after much time, love, care and commitment was dedicated to their growth by hard-working farmers. Some, just because they do not meet the standard definition of beauty.

So, my basic idea is this: In an effort funded and supported by health care collaborations, corporate and/or governmental subsidies–grocery stores, and other appropriate establishments should create space for the preparation of freshly made, nutrient-blessed vegetable-based juice–oh, and yes, soup–for sale to the public at an affordable cost. Incentives for purchase by SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps) recipients could be implemented, similar to those being offered at Farmer’s Markets. These products can be available year-round in frequented food environments.

Vegetable juices and soups (made with well-prepared broths that can also utilize other ingredients that might otherwise be wasted–such as meat bones) are perhaps the simplest health-promoting and disease-preventing foods available. Increasing the exposure to and ease of access and consumption of these may be a powerful antidote to the scourges of our chronic health ills. Call me naive, but my experience informs me that many appreciate the taste of health–particularly when health has become an elusive concept. Returning health to our food establishments is mildly becoming a not so foreign idea. In my nearby city, a local health insurer and the YMCA has partnered with a food chain–and health classes and services are offered right in the grocery store. And golly, our supermarkets often house pharmacies–so, why not grandma’s penicillin?

The benefits of my little “Primordial Soup and Juice” Program include opportunities to expand vegetable education, improve the visibility of nutrition specialists, eliminate barriers to vegetable purchasing and intake, and affirm the age-old wisdom of food as medicine. Plus, it can contribute to the reduction of food waste and spare the feelings of those poor misshapen vegetables. What well-intentioned juice or soup maker would not warmly welcome them? Right, Mr. Rauch?

Oh, and Pete, Where has all the produce gone? Thirty-one percent of it into the waste stream, everyone. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn. New verse: Assimilated well into our cells, everyone.

Please drop in and say hello. Any thoughts to help embellish this vision? Send word.

In health, Elyn 

Addendum–March 8, 2015. Just elaborating by suggesting that this idea can be implemented in our schools as well as in all of our subsidized food programs serving both young children and adults in group care facilities.

my plate

My Plate Haiku       Did you really think That you could hide fish in rice?              Oh, the green paste burns!   By a cat            from I Could Pee on This and other poems by cats collected by Francesco Marciuliano