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whirled peas and a special offer!

It was a truly resplendent summer here in the Northeast. Temperatures warmed and drew some beads of sweat, but they did not oppress. Evenings were maybe a little muggy, but a gently blowing fan was enough to protect well deserved sleep and allow for midsummer night dreams. Flowers popped open on schedule, and gardens did not disappoint. Skies stayed mainly blue and sunny, and, the occasional rains rewarded with magical rainbows. And yes, the full moons were super.

Yet such tranquility did not settle in so easily around the world. Each day seemed to bring news of some atrocity greater than the day before. New global conflicts arose and old ones were reignited. People in an airplane came crashing to the ground. Unimaginable violence was perpetrated. Many lives were lost and many hearts were hurt. The world became a less funny place.

It is hard to fathom events like we have witnessed so intensely over these past few months in particular. Who leaves their homes to go and inflict such pain and to scorch places once graced by beauty and poetry? I know this is a big and naive question. Farm To People

Thankfully, my awe and faith in humanity is inspired by those who have stayed close to home, close to their land and their communities, working from deep places in their hearts to consciously nourish others-while minding their own business(es). A few months ago, some lovely folks reached out to me to let me know about Farm to People, and I am glad they did.

Farm to People is a small assemblage of persons whose mission is “to make it easy to discover and buy from small-batch artisanal producers”. They represent producers mainly from the Northeast, but their reach is spreading. Through Farm to People’s online marketing system, producers are able to source their products and consumers are able to learn about and have these great products shipped right to their doors. Their standards are: locally-crafted, no GMOs, small batch, nothing artificial, and humanely raised.

To look through their list of about ninety producers and their amazing products is enough to make one cry–well, me at least–I cry easily. It also makes one imagine that world peace could and should be certainly attainable through a shared commitment to each other expressed via a culinary experience. These producers are cranking hard day and night, around the clock, in cities and countrysides, in barns and kitchens, just by their little lonesomes. These are true labors of love–the kind that make mommas and poppas proud. Many of the traditions and recipes that they use are those that have been handed down from generations past.

A sampling of what these little businesses alone could bring to the table of global détente includes:

  • Ramp Spaccatelli from Sfoglini Pasta Shop, Brooklyn, NY
  • Sriracha Chili Sauce from Jojo’s, Brooklyn, NY
  • Fromage Blanc, from Tonjes Farm Dairy, Callicoon, NY
  • Moroccan Harissa from Mina Harissa, New York, NY
  • Pickled Jalapenos from Katchkie Farm, New York, NY
  • Roasted Garlic Achaar from Brooklyn Delhi, Brooklyn, NY
  • Caraway Kraut fom Crock and Jar, Brooklyn, NY
  • Finnish Rye Cranberry Loaf from Nordic Breads, Long Island City, NY
  • Ginger Pear Jam from Christina Maser, Lancaster, PA
  • Stone Ground Polenta from Wild Hive Grain Project, Clinton Corners, NY
  • Acorn Squash Seed Drizzling Oil from Stony Brook Wholehearted Foods, Geneva, NY
  • Whiskey Sour Pickles from Brooklyn Brine, Brooklyn, NY
  • Muesli from Seven Sundays, Minneapolis, MN
  • Umami Shiso Fine Mustard from Anarchy in a Jar, Brooklyn, NY
  • Hot Sopressata from Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Asheville, NC
  • New Jersey Wildflower Honey from Tassot Apiaries, Milford, NJ
  • Applewood Smoked Maine Sea Salt from Maine Sea Salt Company, Marshfield, Maine
  • Almond Coconut Macaroons from Sweet, Brooklyn, NY
  • Mango and Juniper Dark Chocolate from Antidote Chocolate, Long Island City, NY
  • Tea Cocktail Mixers from The Owl’s Brew, Brooklyn, NY

The list goes on. It is hard for me to not include them all, but I wanted to make sure the basics for the menu were covered at least, including a good pickle. This wonderful melange of culturally blended flavors and aromas may just indeed elicit the same mid-summer’s night forgetfulness as does Puck’s flower elixir love potion. Upon awakening in the morning after this heavenly repast, all the players in this worldly travail would experience only love for each other.

Farm to People offers lovely bundles and gift basket arrangements such as Daddy Dearest, Help Mom Relax, I Love You Berry Much, A Burger’s Wardrobe and Labor Day for pregnant women. Besides food, there are other items that support healthy living such as apothecary tonics and elixirs, body soups and lotions, laundry detergent and even beautifully crafted cutting and serving boards. The packaging is as beautiful as the intention and the businesses have adorable names like We Rub You, Meow Meow Tweet, Better Off Spread, and the above mentioned Brooklyn Delhi. A monthly tasting box subscription is also available which includes free shipping. Special offers and deals are there for the asking as well.

One might say that Farm to People provides a pod for the little peas and is giving the peas a chance. With some dashes of  their wonderful spices and seasonings I am sure they can whirl ordinary and oft mocked pablum into an incredible and greatly needed dish.  Can you visualize?

So, here is my big and exciting news! If you place an order with Farm to People by September 30th, and use the discount code “DILEMMA 15″, you will receive a 15% discount. Yes, just for being a reader of the Nutritionist’s Dilemma.  I have no financial relationship with this company. I have just been given an opportunity to help spread the word about the work of these kind and gentle folk  nourishing both people and the planet–causes dear to my heart. Please check them out, read about the producers and their products and support their delicious efforts by placing an order. And, please share my blog and this special offer with those you know. Thanks.

As always, say hello, leave a comment, and let me know what culinary delight you tried.

In health, Elyn

Pea Nutrition: Green peas have lots of nutritional and important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. They contain phytonutrients that  are particular to them including pisumsaponins and pisomosides, that along with ferulic and caffeic acid, catechin and epicatechin  may have marked impacts on our health. Besides, they are an environmentally friendly food. A nitrogen-fixing crop, peas increase nitrogen availability in the soil without the need for added fertilizer (the world’s healthiest foods).

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My Plate

My Plate Poem

Peas you sow in early May, Will clamber up a curly way, And bloom for you some pearly day, When rain come down a swirly way

And when the sun comes out to shine, Pods will grow about the vine, And fatten up–all stout and fine

Then what delicious peas there’ll be, For you to eat–and me! and me!

By Mary Q. Steele, from Anna’s Garden Songs with pictures by Lena Anderson (one of my favorite children’s book illustrators)

 

serenity now

In my last post, Peepin’ Out, I described my encounter with  some  test bags of Doritos Jacked.  Since then, I realized that the incident was still bothering me.  I am reluctant to write anything more about it because I do not wish to bring any attention to the product.  Neither do I wish to linger in its wake.  I am sensitive to being in the proximity of things that have bad energy.

I also worry that I drone on too much regarding matters related to junk food.  There are so many more interesting things to focus on and write about in this big world of food and eating to which I devote my attention.  Should I not be promoting positive messaging and discussing new and wonderful ways to nourish the body and soul?  Can’t I just be perky and progressive?  I find and follow so many adorable and inspiring blogs.  It seems however, that I have been assigned to the night shift, enlisted to cover the underbelly of the nutritional world.  My beat is often in the neighborhoods of the most vulnerable.  So, forgive me this further investigation of the matter.

a summer day at uncle bob's

a summer day at uncle bob’s

My mission is to help the masses achieve both physical harmony and emotional bliss as it relates to what we put in our mouths.  Teach people to eat right states my job description.  Restore the order of things.  Ensure that each generation attains a longer lifespan than the previous one.  Put back “adult-onset”  into the description of Type 2 Diabetes.  Decrease health care expenditures on lifestyle related chronic diseases and save our economy.  Oh, and make us all be sleek and slim.

OK, I say as I don my kale green robe and  lemony yellow gloves as part of my requisite super nutritionist uniform.   How hard can it be?  Humankind has achieved many miraculous things. Solutions to myriad problems have been creatively achieved.  Hearing and sight have been restored, outer space has been explored, cars will soon no longer require drivers.  All I have to do is make people eat more fruits and vegetables.  Onward. And then, damn, I am brought to my knees by my arch nemesis–a bag of chips.

Throughout the past few weeks,I have been swimming in the usual news–efforts by some members of Congress to roll back the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act which set higher standards for school lunches, increases in global obesity, the recent opening of the film Fed Up, and gun violence.  Amid these stories, I realized I had not gotten over the chip thing.

Initially, I had presumed that  the promotion of those test bags was being carried out only in the convenience store where I was–another strategic plan just to annoy me.  It then dawned on me that maybe it was actually part of a larger effort and perhaps there was something more I could learn about it.  A quick search led me to an online discussion of these new test flavors.  Apparently, Frito-Lay/PepsiCo charges customers to help them develop new sensory stimulating ingredient formulations.  I also learned that this jacked variety already existed.  Yikes.  It was already too late then to intervene with a large-scale letter writing campaign.  The chips were already jacked.

What did jacked even mean?   None of the definitions I have found seemed really applicable to a snack food.  Is it market speak for GMO corn laden with MSG, seven artificial colors, and 140 calories per six chips? Does it refer to the bigger, bolder, and thicker attributes that the angry-looking packaging boasts?  Are regular Doritos tiny, meek and scrawny by comparison?  I really have no clue about the answers to any of those questions, but I am certain we have  been jacked enough–and certainly hijacked when it comes to feeding the citizenry health-sustaining food.

Recently, Olivier de Schutter, the  United Nations’ Special Rapporteur (cool title), submitted his final report to the UN Human Rights Council on the right to food.  Mark Bittman summarized the report which “analyzes  a food crisis that is international and systemic.  It maintains  that the will of the citizens and countries of the world can be powerful tools in making a new food system, one that is smart and sustainable and fair and describes that all over the world food systems are being rebuilt from the bottom up.  And, it argues for statutory regulation on the marketing of food products.”

It is worth a look at the company link above to see the extreme global reach of these ill-devised products that find their way into the mouths of babes.  An article in the recent issue of periodiCALS (the magazine of Cornell University’s college of Agriculture and Life Sciences) discussed current efforts in India to address malnutrition and growth stunting (which affects an estimated 341 million children worldwide).  A researcher described the work being done in an extremely remote village that cannot be reached by land transport for three months a year during the rainy season.  There, where such problems are endemic, young children are observed buying shining packets of cheese puffs and potato chips.  The infiltration of this junk into this far corner of the world is noted.  I am not shocked, though I am disturbed.

What motivates the continued development and insidious promotion of these adulterated and manipulated food stuffs?  When do their makers say, enough already?  Let’s lay down our guns and claim our pyrrhic victory for the damage has been done and enough money made at the expense of others.  I believe it is time to act upon de Schutter’s assessment that, “Many of us have arrived at the conviction that junk food and sugary drinks are like tobacco and deserve to be treated in the same way.”

There are so many wonderful people promoting incredible efforts to nourish the earth and its inhabitants in a kind and gentle manner, intelligently and respectfully.  Their work is beginning to make a difference.  No jacking required.  I hope to highlight some of the amazing, loving and creative initiatives that have come to my attention in some upcoming posts.  I am humbled by and grateful for what they are doing.  They are making my job easier.

Well, thanks for letting me get this off my chest.  As always, your thoughts are welcomed.  Let’s welcome summer,  its bounty and those who grace us with its goodness.

In health,

Elyn 

P.S.  Your MyPlate Photo or Haiku can be right here when you send them to me!

Rose's Plate

Rose’s Plate

MyPlate Haiku

Pick your own today,

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats,

Sweet summertime fruit.   by Nan

 

 

 

 

peepin’ out

Boy, it has been awhile since I have last posted.  Something happened in mid-April or right before Easter that might have affected this. Somehow, word got through to me, that Peeps would now be sold year round.   I can’t say if I was aware or not that Peeps, those brightly colored marshmallow bunnies and chicks, only appeared on the market for a relatively short period of time each year in order to celebrate the Resurrection.  Truth be told, I am really naive and poorly informed on certain things, like candy and religion.  I have been confused for decades between Cabbage Patch Dolls and Sour Patch candies–I think that is what they are called.  During nutritional consults, I confess that I have uttered the words, ” Do you eat like Cabbage Patch Doll candies?”  Not just randomly of course, but in the context of an assessment when I am trying to demurely and professionally interpret someone’s intake.

Somewhere halfway between childhood and deciding to become a nutritionist, I managed to wean myself off of my predilection for sugar woven into various seductive forms.  Maybe the end of my relationship with Peeps coincided with my commitment to a vegetarian diet. Eating anything with a face became more distasteful, even if it was just an adorable ball of fluff.  I have managed to avoid the things for a long while except for a time where a co-worker enjoyed flaunting her love of them in front of me like the Adoration.

But, upon hearing the news that Peeps would be popping up in stores on a daily basis, I reacted like Puxatawny Phil seeing his shadow on that fateful Groundhog’s Day.  Down into the burrow, I hastily fled. Just when I thought that maybe things were getting a little better regarding our capacity to ameliorate incoming incarnations of sugar, this information startled me.  To soften the blinding light of  blatant commercialism, I had no choice but to go into the dark place below.

By candlelight, I read the small print.  Peeps are stewarded by the Just Born Company in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. According to the website, the wonderful combination of sweet colored sugar and fluffy marshmallow creates an unforgettable taste experience.   And, furthermore, it states a great candy isn’t made, it’s just born. Jesus!  Don’t these guys realize how bunnies multiply and that chicks are no slackers either when it comes to population growth?  I guess they do.  Apparently, 5.5 million Peeps are born each day!

This pronouncement of  a seemingly immaculate conception in Bethlehem, rather than some sticky mess, presented a whole new ball of carnauba wax–one of the ingredients in Peeps along with sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, potassium sorbate, natural flavors and red 3, blue 1, yellow 6, or yellow 5 depending on the color.  With 6.8 grams of sugar, each Peep is endowed with 1.5 (rounding down) teaspoons of essentially pure sugar–the kind that sends our bodies into metabolic-altering, insulin-demanding, fat-storing sugar shock.

In my quest to find out more about this situation, I was forced back above ground.  Donning sunglasses, my research led me to my local national chain drug store where I made a few laps around the multi-aisle candy section disguised as a normal sugar craving person.  I was forced to blow my cover by asking the clerk where the Peeps were.  She reacted as if I must be from another planet.  I did not bother to defend my citizenship as an earthling and neither did I explain the whole groundhog thing.   But I did say my query had scientific purpose–or something like that.  Obviously, Peeps were not to be found after Easter.  I was six weeks too late.

But, I said, I thought they were available all year now, in a widening array of flavors.  She had not gotten that memo.  She instructed me to go to the company website if I wanted more information.  I thought that was funny.  She did add though that this year she had gotten her little daughter some watermelon ones, so maybe I was right.  I  stiffened like a stale Peep.

Like Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield who deemed himself the protector of childhood innocence,  perhaps I take my influence as a nutritionist of the people and for the people a bit too seriously.  In my head, I am charged on a daily basis to personally obliterate obesity, or on a larger scale to clean up this whole nutritional mess and its adherent ills.   I liked the care and assistance the drug store clerk had given me despite her initial recoil, and now by association, I cared about her daughter.  Could I not issue a global recall of these wolves in chicks’ clothing candies due to salmonella poisoning, avian flu or something to save the children?  My usual quandary about how to reconcile the intentions of capitalist markets and the public health smacked me in the face along with another more subtle underlying dilemma–who am I to take sugar from a baby?  Don’t they need some sweetness in this cruel harsh world?

Well, I figured it was time to move back up.  As by now spring had finally arrived in these parts after the long, extended rodent-predicted winter,  I decided it should be safe to step back into the sunlight.  Besides, another holiday was upon us– Memorial Day.  This one, should actually quell our insatiable appetites, right?  But, alas, like Holden, I was once again in for some surprises.

A little weekend travel led me into a highway rest stop convenience store.  There, upon the laden Frito-Lay chip rack I noticed two different generic bags labeled, Doritos Jacked–Test Flavors 404 and 2658. Jesus. I am not positive, but I  think the deal is that if you buy a bag you get to let someone know how jacked you were.  Have you ever encountered such a thing?  The ingredients list was complete with all of the usual suspects that entice and entwine us.  I had a sudden urge to barricade the rack to prevent the innocents from getting their hands on these  hyperactivity-inducing substances.  But, then I thought, hey, don’t those good folk down there at Frito-Lay and PepsiCo deserve to make a little profit?  Just look at all those flavor scientists they are providing work for.  And, aren’t our kids maybe just a little too mellow?  Besides, I have read the Frito-Lay Promise.  Apparently I can relax, it is all good.

Oh well.  Send word.  Let me know what you think or just say hi.  I miss you.

In health, Elyn

P.S.  News Flash–3 D Printers are now producing sugary confections (and spinach quiche).

P.P.S.  For fun Peep art check  this out.

027 My Plate Haiku

Lagoon watercress

Peppers my tongue

With spring joy.

by Roxanne

My Plate

 

 

summer’s end

Before summer goes leaping into fall, as it can tend to do in these parts, I want to offer homage to it and to those who tend its landscape.

In early June, before the sun had reached its northernmost point in the sky and summer’s arrival in this hemisphere had not quite yet been heralded, I was lamenting in “Obesity, oh wait a minute“, about the “collective abdication” of societal nourishment due to the blurry division between culture and corporation.  This was written in response to my learning about a local community sacrificing its citizenry for some petty reward from Arby’s–the fast food roast beef chain.  The insidious mutiny of our taste buds and natural hungers by corporations who have invested deeply in behavioral psychology, flavor and gene manipulation and marketing in order to usurp our birthright of health, always makes me feel pretty yukky .   

susan fowler's friendship garden

susan fowler’s friendship garden

I quoted Dr. David Katz who asked, “If you know it’s important to control your weight and attend to your health, but almost everything in your environment and your culture conspires against such efforts- how responsible are you, personally?  Are you truly personally irresponsible if you go with the prevailing flow?“   Julie, my dear friend and a wonderful teacher, provided an apt My Plate haiku in response–see below.

When one is swirling about in the prevailing flow, it is hard to either remember or to imagine a different current of possibility.  For context, I remind that my work entails helping those who have not just gone with the flow, but who are drowning in it.   While much about  our modern food situation lurks in shadow, thankfully the enlightening sun continues on its ecliptic journey along the celestial sphere in spite of ourselves.  When it reaches the right ascension: 6 hours; declination: 23.5 degrees on June 21st–the longest day of the year, the light shifts, the air warms, and we are blessed with the advent of summer. This is the season that offers the opportunity to paddle over to the river bank and to rest for a while.

At the solstice, the denizens of summer appear.  Having spent months in preparation for this precious moment, this is when the sowers and reapers take to the fields, playing midwife to the earth’s fertile bounty that the warm sun beckons forth.   One must move slowly and sit quietly to see them.  Like little gnomes, hunched low to the ground or up in the trees, they are busy with their work, often in the early hours of the day. They tend to be weary and shy of the noise and bustle of the big cities and crowded highways.   Sometimes they commune better with their animals than with people.

But, they are gentle and caring folk, and eventually they step through the veil of the misty morning and come forth with their beautiful harvest–raspberries, blueberries, currants, peaches and plums, big bunches of leafy chard, heads of tender bibb lettuce, peas and beans, luscious tomatoes, beets and carrots pulled from the dirt, melons of many varieties, eggs laid from happy chickens, cheeses curdled from the milk of frolicking goats and tiny bundles of fragrant herbs.

As if awakening from a midsummer’s night dream, when we behold these offerings we are a bit uncertain at first about what is real–are we truly enamored of the jackass or are we brought to our senses by being reminded of what is truly beautiful and deeply nourishing?  Can we actually claim this amazing food for ourselves and for our children as well?  May we feel more resolute to decry the fodder that misrepresents itself by masquerading as food?  It is possible.

Summertime provides me with many wonderful examples that creating new paradigms of food and feeding exist.  Two urban, youth focused programs include the Student Produce Project run by my friends at the Capital District Community Gardens; and the magical school-based Friendship Garden fertilized by many years of hard work and the amazing love of another dear friend, Susan Fowler.  Susan is also a wonderful teacher and a whole lot more.  With her corps of elementary students in her heart and at her side tending the crops, she has been an early crusader in the school gardening movement.

CDCG Produce Project

CDCG Produce Project

front side gmo display

front side gmo display

Farmer’s markets also always inspire.  This summer, a day trip led me to the Saugerties Farmer’s Market in the beautiful Hudson Valley.  There, beside the wonderful assemblage of growers, bakers and jelly makers I came upon an educational and artistic display about the health effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.  Afterward, I kept wondering how did science meet such creative expression, so I traced my way to the work of the person responsible, Claudia McNulty. Claudia is a painter, designer, sculptor and seemingly, environmental activist as well.  Her work is beautiful and thought-provoking.  Claudia has provided some links to very important information through her Corn Porn GMO project.  These include the Seralini GMO Rat Study and a video interview with an MIT scientist on the effects of the increased use of the herbicide RoundUp required by GMO crops.  To appreciate our current health crises, it is essential to understand the influence of GMOs.

But, the earth tenders who most personally influenced my own summer, were my friends Justine and Brian Denison, and their crew, the farmers at Denison Farm, providers of my Community Supported Agriculture share, who not only grew, but also delivered weekly, the amazing produce that graced my own table and fed my family.  There is a film, Radical Roots: Reawakening the Local Food Movement, by Patricia Lane, that features their farm.  It was something captured in this story, that really colored my thoughts  and inspired me through these long sunny days.  I hope it may do the same for you.

So, to all of summer’s tenders who work so hard as stewards of the land and take care to feed us all,  I offer deep and profound thanks, and hope that the fall provides some well deserved rest.  And to summer itself, it is always sad to see you go, but thanks for giving respite from our busy year and for illuminating the ways we can re-route the prevailing flow that permits corporate control of our health and environment.

In health, Elyn

As always, likes, shares, comments, subscriptions, haikus, plates and watering of my blog are welcomed with opened arms.

PS.  I am realizing I would be remiss, if I did not mention (my pretend) new friend, Tess Beatrice and her unbelievably conceived and beautifully presented Sow Good Bakery‘s delicious morsels.  I met Tess while at the Saugerties Farmer’s Market where I also got a hula hoop!  All of the offerings are gluten-free, refined sugar-free, sometimes raw confections laced with unusual spices and topped with tender flower petals.  They were truly amazing, gorgeous and quite unique.  Worth checking out to see if she will be your friend too.

Susan's My Plate

Susan M’s Fall My Plate

My Plate Haiku

It is easier                                                                                                                                             

to reprimand the sinner

than change the system.

By, Julie 

obesity, oh wait a minute

I have something to get off my chest.   Well, really off my dresser.  I’ve had this scrap of newspaper lying there for two months.   It’s an article headlined, “Town renamed for sandwich”.  I hope I don’t embarrass myself here because this is about Arby’s and Reuben sandwiches, two things I know hardly anything about.  Apparently,  the Town Board of the somewhat  nearby town of Coeymans, rechristened itself Reubenville as part of an Arby’s Reubenville Challenge.  By tacking a red and white banner that said “Welcome to Reubenville”over the regular town sign, the town received 5,000 free coupons redeemable for a Reuben sandwich at an Arby’s in another town fifteen miles away.

The Three Graces

The Three Graces by Peter Paul Rubens   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is Arby’s famous for Reubens?  Last I knew I thought they made roast beef sandwiches.  I suppose they could make Reubens as well–doesn’t seem that far a stretch–but I am pretty sure they didn’t invent them.  Though I have been rather ignorant of meaty matters for about forty years now, I once did know my way around a good corned beef sandwich–and was vaguely aware of its non-kosher cousin.

A perfunctory visit to the “Welcome to Arby’s” website has just revealed to me a picture of the Reuben, embedded in what is supposedly a marble rye.  It doesn’t look like a New York marble rye to me, if you know what I mean.  Anyway, I am now hip to the 640 calories, 30 grams of fat and 1,610 milligrams of sodium that this town name changing sandwich contains–as well as its plethora of both real and hard to even imagine ingredients.  I must commend Arby’s for listing the nutritional information for its complete menu in a very clear and accessible way.  If you would like a quick lesson in fast food gastronomy I suggest you take a peek yourself.  I only wish the town council members would have bothered to do the same before getting that banner made.

I am still pretty bewildered.  Does Coeymans have anything to do with Reuben sandwiches or with Arby’s for that matter?  Named after its early settler, Barent Pieteres Koijeman, Coeymans’ roots are strongly Dutch.  Is there some confusion in the town between the possible German origins of the sandwich and the German-Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, known for his beautiful paintings of voluptuous Rubenesque women?  Rubens apparently died from heart failure related to chronic gout.  Is that what this is all about?  My bigger question is, why would any municipality waste its time and efforts responding to such a bogus challenge which serves only to promote the purposes of a corporate food giant and does nothing to protect or promote the lives of its citizens?

Interestingly, physician David Katz,  Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and a prolific writer on many things of nutritional interest just happened to speak  to my burning questions and larger perpetual conundrum about personal health in the context of culture in a piece he posted this week titled “Culture, Power and Responsibility“.  This piece is part of his Personal Responsibility for Health (PRH) Chronicles.

Katz writes, “I think we know what it is, and it’s all about power-and culture. Culture is a powerful influence on us all. When personal responsibility involves defiance of the prevailing forces of one’s culture, it becomes a very tall order indeed.  Unfortunately, that is just the order associated with personal responsibility for health.

In a commentary published in the Lancet in February of this year, a group of scholars made the very point that the power of culture, and profit, is all too often oriented in opposition to health rather than in support of it. We might ask people to take responsibility in spite of it all, but that’s a bit like pitching someone off our boat and assigning them responsibility for keeping afloat- whether or not they’ve ever learned how to swim. Relevant power is prerequisite to responsibility.”

If you know it’s important to control your weight and attend to your health, but almost everything in your environment and your culture conspires against such efforts- how responsible are you, personally?  Are you truly personally irresponsible if you go with the prevailing flow?

How can the whole of our collective responsibility for health be so much less than the sum of what we expect from its parts? Do we truly expect every individual- adult and child alike- to compensate with personal responsibility for the collective abdications at the level of culture, and corporation?

Oh, blessed be.  I could not agree more.  Yes, I believe that it is the cultural, corporate and governmental abdication of responsibility that displaces much of the onus on an unwitting and poorly equipped populace.   And, this is why the actions of both the Coeymans Town Board and the Arby’s Corporation drive me insane.  This is also why I feel the ubiquitous conversation about obesity must be redirected.

The collective chatter about obesity is still amplifying.  Travelling widely around this nutritional universe as I do, I am bombarded with meteoric messages about fighting, fixing, flagellating, and fracking obesity.  The mandate is to leave no obesity behind–neither its grown-up or childhood varieties–adorable pudgy babies and grandmas included.    Millions are being spent on the ammunition to obliterate this planetary scourge.  The aims appear community-based, but individuals are the intended targets.  The drones attack both bodies and psyches alike , unable to discern the difference.  For my own safety I have taken to wearing a helmet–well, at least when I am biking.

The increased prevalence of obesity is a physically evident symptom of a culture whose motives ignored or overrode its responsibility to protect the  birthright of health for its citizenry.  However, generalizing obesity as a health crisis is complicated by the fact that its definition is too broadly applied, its prevalence poorly defined, its detriment still debatable and its cure misunderstood.  There are many other equally important markers of compromised health and well-being.  However, by focusing only on the obvious, the approach has been to throw massive resources at obesity programs with uncertain outcomes while abiding the cultural insults.

Rebuilding or restoring our country’s health will necessitate more than these bombastic approaches that seem similar to our political mindset of problem solving.  It will require some deep introspection regarding the constructs upon which we structure personal and public life.  It will beg that our corporate and political leaders as well as our policy makers take a serious and sensitive look in attending to the environments that either foster or hinder health.  There is much to be undone and redone.  I have a few ideas of my own that I will share soon.

But while we continue to work toward meaningful change, I will think about the dear people down there in Coeymans in the aftermath of their brief moment of irrelevant fame.  I wonder how many of the 7418 citizens even cared if they were one of the 5000 somehow chosen to drive thirty miles for a sandwich.  My sincere wish is that those folks may have either a large dose of relevant power or access to good affordable health coverage, because neither their council members nor Arby’s is going to pick up the real bill for that Reuben.

Do you know what I mean?  I would love to hear from you.

In health, Elyn 

erin's plate

erin’s plate

My Plate Haiku

Lagoon watercress

Peppers my tongue

With spring joy.

by Roxanne

(Gratitude to Roxanne, who provided a beautiful dinner of field greens with a maple vinaigrette dressing, and brown rice with wild mushrooms and tofu during my Memorial Day weekend bike trip to Martha’s Vineyard.)

Offering: I always appreciate (love) receiving  My Plate Haikus and My Plate Photos–personal expressions of one’s experience regarding nourishment.   I will send a sample bottle of lovely Lavender Young Living Essential Oil to the first ten people who fill my plate with new haikus or photos–or to those who take a moment to subscribe to my blog or to send it forward to others.  Please send or inform me via the comment box or zimcat@verizon.net.  (include your address!)

reporting from the rim of the sinkhole

At about 4 PM, a few months ago, Pete sent me an email saying something about soul food.  I was rushing to end my day so I overlooked the attachment that would have filled me in on the details and why he thought this might be of interest to me.  I dismissed the message quickly.

That evening though as fate would have it, I got another message on my email informing me that I had a new follower on Twitter.  This was big news given that it is a rare occurrence.  As Pete assures me that I am right behind Lady Gaga in terms of followers, I must assume that she might have like twenty-eight.  So, I decided to check out my ignored little bird account and see who my new follower might be.  Once there, I stumbled upon a flurry of activity on the feed from someone I follow–chef and food activist Bryant Terry, author of Vegan Soul Kitchen and Urban Grub.  The excited conversation was about a PBS documentary Soul Food Junkies which was apparently being aired right then.  The praise was pouring in for this film by Byron Hurt, about his exploration of the historical and cultural roots of soul food cuisine and its relationship to the current health crisis with its impact on the African-American community.  

Ah, now I got it.  I ran upstairs to the TV room and grappled with the remote.  Mastering its controls I pushed that channel button frantically.  I must mention that I have about as limited a relationship with the television as I do with my Twitter account–and relying on an old antenna like apparatus, have access to about seven channels.  Still, I knew I did get PBS.  Round and round I cycled through those seven channels, three PBS stations and still could not find the show I was looking for. It seems PBS offers a few different channels these days, and I don’t get the one on which the program was aired.   Instead, what I did find on was a program about a guinea worm eradication program sponsored by Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center in Africa.  It was rather fascinating though quite gruesome to watch.  Apparently, water-borne guinea worm disease which has plagued a wide swath of Africa and Asia for thousands of years is poised to be eradicated.  In 1986 when the Carter Center began its campaign with the partner countries, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases in 21 countries.  By 2012 there were 542 cases left in just four African countries.

Guinea worm disease is contracted from ingesting drinking water contaminated with larvae that once inside the human abdomen grow into worms up to three feet long.  These worms eventually emerge from the body through excruciatingly painful blisters on the skin.  I guardedly watched as health workers painstakingly exorcised these worms from the legs of screaming children and stoic adults, wrapping the worms around little sticks which were slowly turned.  One worm, one person at a time.  The success of this amazing eradication program has been due to water treatment and filtration programs and community education at a very grass-roots level.

A few days later I was able to watch Soul Food Junkies on pbs.org.  It is an excellent film and I have been talking it up with a lot of my clients–and others as well.  Many of my clients are African-American and my daily consults revolve around discussing this interface between food as cultural identity and health.  Soul food is not the only problem area.  Many cultural cuisines that have sustained people for millenia are causing problems in the context of our modern existence.  This is due to various reasons including agricultural alterations in the actual foodstuffs that form the basis of these cuisines, more processed versions of these dietary staples being substituted for the real foods, traditional diets being padded with the excess of sugars, concentrated carbohydrates and other addictive substances that infiltrate our beings and a massive increase in sedentary lifestyles and stress.  The vulnerable communities that are more exposed to poverty and its attendant health disparities are experiencing greater discord between their food and their health.

This is multi-layered stuff that claws at the core of who we are as eaters and which reveals how deeply connected we are to our heritage.  Food is clearly not just extrinsic matter.  It communicates intimately with our cellular makeup.  And, it is a heavenly sacrament.    I remember as a child listening to my mother and my aunties trying to sever the relationship between my hypertensive grandfather and the heavily salt-cured foods of his Russian roots.  Little did I know I would one day be standing between an African-American man and his beloved fried chicken or an Asian woman and her dear little grains of rice.

But yes, there I am.  Standing tall at five feet one, holding firm with my big professional tweezers before every diabetic who sits in my office. With exact precision, I try to extract each granule of sugar  that has gone rogue in the bloodstream, wreaking havoc on the body–sort of like a guinea worm.  Just as guinea worm disease takes hold in unsuspecting individuals so does diabetes.  Persons consuming available foods for the  purpose of sustaining survival and attaining some pleasure, awaken one day to learn that they are infested with massive globs of excess glucose.

I have been doing this work for a long time and I can tell you that the diabetic epidemic is getting worse.  My daily roster is full of newly diagnosed cases of diabetes.  This morning I woke up to some crazy NPR story about the woes of candy makers due to the relative high price of sugar–the price regulated by the Farm Bill.  Apparently, the makers of Dum Dum lollipops require 100,000 pounds of sugar for the daily manufacture of ten million Dum Dums–and they are having a hard time affording it.  Can those numbers be for real?  Well, please don’t tell Dum Dum  that I have some sugar stockpiled in my office–mounds of the stuff that I have removed from my clients.  I know they will just try to recycle it right back into the very folk I took it from.

Diabetes might not seem to be as bad as guinea worm–but one can actually make many metaphorical if not actual comparisons.  Diabetes leaves many physical and emotional scars.   My clients look at me through eyes that plead to spare them from this scary disease–that comes complete with implements that stab and jab and symptoms that pain and worry–depleting the soul.  I scurry furiously to help pull them out of the sinkhole of this very complicated condition.  If a disease caused by a swarm of microscopic larvae can be eradicated from the planet, it is hard to believe we can’t do better to minimize the incidence or increase the reversal of diabetes.  The methods employed essentially would seem to be the same–clean food, governmental responsibility, education and cultural adaptation.

And so, that is why the work of Bryant Terry and the film of Byron Hurt is so important–and why folk should watch Soul Food Junkies and align it with their own food foundation.  And, why you should quickly sign on to the Food Summit Revolution 2013--a series of incredible interviews on these urgent food and health matters that will be aired between April 27th and May 5th.  Time is of the essence and Jimmy Carter deserves a rest.

Thank you for reading, really.  As always, thoughts, tweezers and twitter followers welcomed.

In health, Elyn

My Plate Haiku

Food made joyfully

As a gift of time and self

Feeds body and soul.

by Anne-Marie

My Plate Photo by Nirinjan

so-duh

I have a confession to make.  I recently had a soda.  Yes, I did.  That means, of my own volition, I purchased the vibrantly colored 12 oz can, pulled up on that little flip top, and brought that fizzy, bubbly nectar–rife with all its high fructose corn syrup–up to my own lips…and swallowed.  Then I swallowed again.  And, I did all of this under the bright lights of the  public eye.  I tell ya.  That little burst of Sunkist Orange Soda was quite satisfying.

It was a cold winter’s night.  Pete and I had gone to our little local community-run movie theater where nice volunteers staff a humble concession stand.  I don’t really know how it happened.  I was thirsty.  Ordinarily, I would have just purchased a water–which was what I was assuming I was about to do again as I approached the counter.  However, uncharacteristically, my thirst informed me right then and there that it would not be humored this time by just plain water and it insisted that I consider the offerings stocked in the small glass-front refrigerator.  

I was stunned.  I did not know what to do.  Healthy-oriented me does really enjoy a few lines of lightly sweetened specialized iced teas but there were none of those to be found in that bastion of freon-cooled fare.  Instead, there were just waters, sodas and those pouches of Capri Suns that you stick  little straws into.  I panicked.  The cloyingly sweet fruit juice concoctions aroused a mild nausea, the sodas provoked my usual disgust and disdain and the concession people were beginning to look at me funny.  Suddenly, the sun logo on the little orange can seemed to wink at me and I found myself saying, “Yes, I’ll have an orange soda.”  When I went back to sit in my chair, Pete turned to tell me that the seat was saved…for me.  He really did not recognize me with that can in my hand.  The last time he saw me with a can of soda was about 1981 when we were parched and poor living in Dallas, Texas.

Now, you might not think this was such a big deal without appreciating that I have about the lowest per capita soda consumption and am kind of like the Carrie Nation of the soda-drinking world.  I tote around soda bottles emptied of their original content and refilled with their hidden sugar equivalency.  I  paste pictures of skulls and cross-bones on these bottles.  I make my victims hold those bottles while I read them the insidious list of ingredients that their beloved brands contain.  I make them weep as they promise to not ever imbibe again.  When forced on rare occasions to empty the bottles of their original contents so I can use them for my own devices, I don plastic gloves and a face mask.  That is how corrosive I consider these substances to be.  And, if anyone had ever dared offer my own kids a soda in my presence, who knows what their fate may have been.

So, imagine my inner confusion as I leaned over and whispered to Pete during the movie, “This is pretty good.”  Now, don’t get me wrong.  It is not like I never had the stuff.  I was raised on soda.  The only thing that had stopped me from having a relationship with it long ago was an early adoption of a whole foods/crunchy granola lifestyle, an understanding of the depleting aspects of white sugar and a resistance to large multi-national corporations.  If I had not had such a strong philosophical position on such matters way back, I might have just gone along enjoying these nice little fizzies with the rest of the masses.  Especially the innocent flavors like orange, black cherry and ginger ale.  Sometimes they do just hit the spot like nothing else can.  If not bolstered by my iron-clad conviction that soda should be a banned substance, I could easily imagine getting another one of these little cans of sunshine the next time I go to the movies.  And then, maybe when I go to a restaurant or if I am on a trip.  I could then just keep a few in my own fridge.

Maybe I should have relaxed a little last week with my lovely 35-year-old-client–300 plus pounds, diagnosed with diabetes a year ago whose blood sugars are better but still not in good control.  He is drinking way less Pepsi than he used to.  Now,he only has one or two cans a day, sometimes none, while on the job during the day as a building maintenance supervisor.  Should the fact that he is the father of five– the youngest of which was with him during our consult and who was the cutest thing ever–matter?  Is it just a coincidence that he sees a connection between his blood sugar levels and his soda consumption?

Maybe I shouldn’t have tried so hard last week to figure out what was up with my 34-year-old pregnant client.  Prior to this pregnancy, her chart indicated that there was evidence of high blood sugar–hyperglycemia–without a full diagnosis of diabetes.  She came in bemoaning her foul moods, agitation and lack of both patience and energy.  Came to find out she has been consuming 2 to 3 liters of Cherry Coke for a long while.  Imagine her surprise when I pulled out a sugar-filled bottle of her favorite blend from under my desk.

Once again, there is new hoopla in the divisive soda world as Coca-Cola is releasing these commercial spots touting their supposed corporate responsibility in the fight against obesity while at the same time ignoring the true effects of their confectionery concoctions.  You can watch one of them here.  My peeps, Mark Bittman, Marion Nestle, CSPI and others  are thankfully responding to this deceptive campaign accordingly.  This is good because I am busy in the trenches.   These little stories I cite above are just examples of situations I really encounter over and over, even in the course of a day.  Corroded teeth, eroded stomachs, poor mood regulation, extreme belly fat and of course, diabetes lie in the wake of soda consumption and its adherent addiction.  It is this that fuels my manic reaction to the stuff–and will continue to do so.

Being diagnosed with diabetes is like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole.  Every day, I meet the people who have unfortunately fallen into the hole chasing some elusive White Rabbit.  Reality changes mighty quickly and quite extremely.  Simply awakening from a strange dream will not make it go away.  Eating cake will certainly not help and the Red Queen is apt to yell, “Off with her toes!”   And, Coca Cola and Pepsico   will have nothing to offer except a Cheshire Cat smug grin.

So, though I enjoyed that little refreshment, it will be a long time until my next one.  In the meantime, I leave you with a link to some powerful stories.  A Widow’s Story and Simply Raw.

As always, I look forward to your thoughtful comments and warm hellos.

In health, Elyn

I am so glad to introduce the new My Plates.  Thanks to those who have submitted their beautiful plate photos.  Photos and haikus always welcome.

erin's plate

erin’s plate

My Plate Haiku

Food is medicine

Farmers are doctors, Cooks priests

Eat, pray, eat, pray, love.

by Gordon