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so, how did it go?

Way back in the spooky month of October, just prior to Halloween, I presented a My Plate Haiku on Instagram. Not as deep perhaps as a Zen Buddhist koan, a paradoxical anecdote or riddle used to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning in order to provoke enlightenment, but reflective of a puzzlement nonetheless.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while may know that in my little anachronistic village, Halloween is serious business. Hundreds and hundreds of little kiddies and big grown-ups dressed in scary–and adorable–costumes descend like zombies and crowd the narrow streets to frighten away any evil spirits–and to collect their sweet rewards. My house is in a prime trick-or-treat location and next door to the village wizards whose annual display attracts a lot of attention.

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And thus, my perennial dilemma. What’s my personal and professional responsibility as concerns contributing to this massive spike in the community’s blood sugar levels? Fun though it may seem, innocuous though one might think–it is not a good thing. There is a lot of sugar going down–way more than Mary Poppin’s prescribed spoonful.

I have stared deep down into pillowcases with more loot than a bank robber’s heist, yet the pirates and ninjas demand more. I have stared deep into the big eyes and darling faces of newly walking toddler princesses and kitty cats, imploring me to fill their plastic pumpkin with some white crystallized sugar drug–I mean treat. Seriously, should there not be some legal age requirement for serving sugar to children? I feel I should be carding these kids, checking ID, asking for a birth certificate or tricycle license.

Every year, Halloween seems to come around quickly, and each time I struggle with the dilemma. Given the havoc I know sugar and sweets wreak on the individual and global level, I do not wish to be a purveyor of this potential gateway substance associated with dental decay, behavioral issues, food addiction, inflammation, obesity, diabetes, and other maladies. To really appreciate the seductive allure of said substance, consider that recently, after a newly levied sugar-tax was imposed in their country, ordinarily level-headed Norwegians have wildly taken to crossing the border into Sweden to procure their candy and soda more cheaply in binge shopping sprees.

But, neither am I ready to leave the party. So, for years my family has stood at the door giving out a combination of edible sweets and non-edible treats in hopes of offering choice and mitigating damage.

But, this last All Hallows’ Eve I decided to go further. In preparation for the nearly four hundred grabbing hands and gaping mouths, I set out to find provisions that would not further the sugar problem at hand. The additional challenge was to try to not substitute it with useless items that would quickly be tossed in the garbage, and to have things that would be suitable for children of all different ages. And, to not spend more than I would on candy.

As usual, I solicited the help of my little witch, Zena, and with broomsticks in hand, off we flew to the nearest Michael’s Arts and Crafts store to fill our cauldron. We scoured about and found some things that were suitable. Also, next door wizard Amy informed me of holiday-themed milkweed seed packets available for sale to help save our important monarch butterflies. Perfect. We ordered one hundred of them.

When ready, we poured everything on the bed and got to work. We filled perky pumpkin-faced and scary skull-headed gift bags with age-appropriate treats. It was all in fun, though I must say a fair amount of dissection was involved in separating parts from wholes. There were all Halloween-themed cool sticker sheets, water-color painting pictures, stamps, little marble maze games, foam cutouts to make masks, erasers–and seed packets. Unfortunately, we did not procure the mechanical pencils which had been a big hit with the older set the previous year.

The only problems were that we ran out of the little bags and took to using business envelopes; and that Zena, being a very good witch, was a bit too generous in filling her bags which left us short of supplies to reach our projected count. But, time was short, so we’d have to make do.

It was then, in anticipation of the big day, I penned and posted to Instagram the koan-tinged haiku:

Treats of a different kind 
No candy for Halloween 
We’ll see how it goes.                                                                                                                       

(We hope they like the Save Our Monarchs Milkweed Seed Packets)

So, how did it go? Pretty well, I’d say. The house was not egged and there were no tricks. There was the one teenager–the kind who doesn’t even have a costume–who did turn and walk away when the cauldron choices were kindly presented to him. A few of the neophyte toddlers did display some cognitive dissonance provoked by being handed something they could not imagine to be the promised candy. And, there was the middle-schooler who when handed a business envelope with indeterminate contents responded by saying she did not like surprises.

But mainly, things were positive. One little girl excitedly told her folks, “We got a card!” There were shrieks of, “It’s the sticker house!” And, the teenagers, were as a whole quite appreciative at receiving something different. I’d say, it was a sign they were actually candied out. It was encouraging to see that they still could like a good, basic pencil–even a non-mechanical one.

The seed packets were mainly tucked in the bags and not really noticed in the dark, but a few who did see them thought they were cool. I hope their value was better appreciated in the light of day–with the help of parents who’d realize what they were for.

The highlight of the evening was once again when Ruth came to the door. Last year, our hearts melted when mid-evening we responded to the doorbell’s beckon to find a little girl and her family waiting. The girl handed us a piece of paper. It was a drawing of–we think–a little bat and a little pumpkin. It was hard to tell, but not bad for a four-year-old. On the back, it was signed, Ruth.

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This year, Ruth came to the door with her little sister who was now old enough to stand. Their costumes were beautifully made by their grandmother. Once more, we received a personal drawing–this time of three large carved pumpkins. Ruth’s artistic abilities had increased exponentially. And, now it was signed, Ruth and Grace. This evolved soul, did not seem to expect anything in return. We told them how touched we had been last year and how excited we were to see them again.

As usual, and as we had feared, we did not have enough to make it through the night. As supplies were running low, we frantically tore sticker sheets into individual stickers and repurposed whatever we could.

At the final ring, we had only a few stray bat and pumpkin erasers left. Apologetically we held the basket out to the lone teenager who stood before us. “I’m good with erasers”, he said and graciously accepted the offering.

I tell this story now, not only because it is already less than six months until the next Halloween and time to think ahead. But, because it exposes our complicated relationship with and messaging about food. Please understand I do not maintain a staunch anti-sugar stand. I appreciate how and why we are wired to enjoy it and recognize that it is a source of joy. In my repertoire, I carry a story I once read. When the author was a young girl, her well-meaning parents presented her with an apple with a candle stuck in it, in lieu of a cake for her birthday. She cried. It is also well documented how the denial of any sugar seems to breed an uncontrollable urge for it.

But, given the state of our health and what we know about the detriments of sugar and the foods it is cloaked in, and their ubiquitous presence, can we continue to abide the excess that this holiday ritual depends on? Especially as it so strongly impacts children. Who is really benefiting from this candy deluge? The excuses that it is just for one day, and that we can use it as a way of teaching our kids about moderation, may now be too feeble.

I think it may be time for the expansion of creative alternatives. I remember as a child Trick or Treating for UNICEF, carrying a little orange box door to door to collect money for children in dire need–in faraway places. Apparently, that campaign was started in 1950 and is still around. Maybe that idea can be flipped by households choosing a cause of their choice and telling the children soliciting treats that a donation will be made on their behalf to that cause. Just thinking out loud. Honestly, I am not sure I can sustain the full no-sweets effort. However, if little Ruth can draw all those pictures for everyone–I will certainly try.

Let me know what alternative Halloween ideas you have tried.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

Related Posts: Eye of the Newt, The Nightmare Before Halloween, Post Halloween Post

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Bees’ My Plate

 

My Plate Haiku

Treats of a different kind
No candy for Halloween
We’ll see how it goes.

by Elyn

 

 

 

 

 

is that an experience you’re drinking?

My dilemma and I were minding our own business at home, when suddenly an image of a Coca-Cola bottle, or what I thought was a Coca-Cola bottle appeared in the sidebar on my computer.

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Coca-Cola global campaign executives

However, the accompanying words said, “This is not a Coca-Cola. It is an experience.” Really? It certainly looked like a Coca-Cola. While still confused, I was also informed that for Coca-Cola, experience goes far beyond the first sip and that I should make ‘experience’ my business.

With a little click, I found myself face-to-face with Coca-Cola’s VP of Global Design. He told me that they sell almost two billion, (2,000,000,000) servings, excuse me, ‘experiences’ a day. And thus, on a digital platform, he would like to have two billion conversations a day, because brands need to listen to their consumers who are all apparently craving choice and innovation.

If so, I hope he is fluent in Twi, one of the Kwa sub-groups of Niger-Congo languages, spoken in Ghana. In 2016, Coca-Cola launched a major initiative in Accra, called Taste the Feeling. It seems they were feeling bad for the millions there who had maybe not been privileged to enjoy the ‘experience’. Interestingly, a group of public health researchers has already done a little study accessing the marketing of non-alcoholic beverages in outdoor ads (visible signs) in a small section of Accra. Of seventy-seven ads, sixty percent featured sugar-sweetened Coca-Cola products–some fraction of which are near schools and feature children–I mean consumers, or soon to be ones–begging for conversation.

My dilemma caught my eye, knowing that this Mr. James Sommerville, would most likely not wish to hear from me. Given that it has been about forty-something years since my last sip, I could certainly not claim to be a consumer, thus depriving the company of that 2,000,000,001 serving. Ah, but he had certainly provoked my ire with this seductive, manipulative, alluring message about the right friends, the right time, the right glass–and the tingle.

Might I suggest that he is high fructose corn syrup coating the ‘experience’ or seeing it through caramel colored glasses–with a blast of phosphoric acid and caffeine. Or, that he has drunk too much of the figurative Koolaid– aka the company’s addictive secret syrupy recipe.

While it is certainly possible he may have already seen my anti-Sugar Sweetened Beverages (SSBs) rants, it is not likely. If not, maybe, because like me, he’s recently been watching the 9-Part Docuseries, iThrive, Rising from the Depths of Diabetes and Obesity. But, I don’t think so.

If anything, back when I was writing more about this topic, he may have been concerned with the efforts of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), a Coca-Cola funded non-profit, engaging scientists in the promotion of energy balance and exercise as the solution to obesity, thus underplaying the evidence on the impact of SSB’s. While founded in 2014, the GEBN was disbanded by the end of 2015, after a New York Times article brought attention to public health authorities’ concerns about its corporate influence. A recently published essay provides some greater insight into the company’s intentions by shedding light on some of its internal documents.

Or, I don’t know. Maybe lately he’s just been busy globally designing alcopop drinks in Japan. (My dilemma, just gave me its ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ look. No, I am not kidding.) But, whatever, he is up to something–and I don’t get it. Even though he was looking right at me, he lost me at “physical analog world” and “push work out to the market”. I know this is nothing new, but call me naive. What’s up here? Does Coca-Cola have to weasel its way into every mouth on the planet–ruining perfectly good teeth, or worsening not so great ones? Not to mention incurring potentially more harm. Why such deliberate cunning? Is this not loca?

A few years ago, I wrote about my dismay regarding Coca-Cola’s marketing ploy of placing common names on their labels. Interestingly, as I was delving into the Ghana campaign, I came upon a story that there was a proposed boycott of the brand in the country. I had a touch of health promotion optimism upon seeing the headline. But, apparently, the boycott was due to the fact that the names that the company had placed on the labels in Ghana, were names more predominantly found in the southern part of the country, and did not include the more common (and Muslim) names of its northern reaches. Oh, dear lord.

Well, here is my solution to that problem. Why not put only the names of the executives, such as James, on the labels? This way, consumers will know whom to contact directly should they need any assistance with their health or dental issues or geopolitical concerns.

It may be tempting to say, for god’s sake, it is just a soda! Let us just ‘experience’ that feeling of happiness, let us ‘taste the feeling’ if nothing else–is a soft drink in hard times asking too much? But unfortunately, it is far from that simple. I ponder these matters about profound insults to population health and where lies responsibility. Coca-Cola and its products are certainly not only to blame, but considering their tactics, neither are they blameless. To say they are a big player is a big understatement. (I am linking to one more article of interest here about the relationship between Coca-Cola and the Ghana health system. I invite you to take a look and let me know what’s going on.)

It is most obvious to look at the rapid increases in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes around the globe as indicators of our health crises influenced by our dietary behaviors. And, yes, according to the latest survey data (published just last week), here in the US, we are still getting fatter, while the food industry giants continue to fight hard against public health measures.

But, there are also other implications of the manipulations of our dietary environment by corporate interests. In recognition of this weekend’s global marches against gun violence in our society, I had wanted to explore the topic of nutritional violence, but this guy cut into the front of the line. Bully. But, I will get to that next. They may be related.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Most sincerely yours, Elyn

Update July 2018: In Town with Little Water, Coca-Cola is Everywhere

Related Posts: Reporting from the Rim of the Sinkhole; So-duh; Brought to Tears; Nutritional Violence

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The Lives Taken Broken My Plates

 

My Plate Haiku

In school, I should be concerned

About my Health Class topics

Serving life not death.

by Elyn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 quickly 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 a 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 a 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 were 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 have 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. Any thoughts to help embellish this vision?

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn 

Update 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

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Mock Turtle’s  My Plate Plate

My Plate Poem

Beautiful soup so rich and green

Waiting in a hot tureen

Who for such dainties would not stoop

Soup of the evening beautiful soup. by The Mock Turtle

 

brought to tears

I actually found it in a garbage can at the Health Department where I now work. I’d been trying to get my little fingers on one of these for a while, so I was not totally put off by its lowly circumstances. It really should have been in the recycling bin at least, but there it lay, abandoned, thankfully right on top. I gingerly lifted it from its resting place of refuse and walked it right over to a nearby sink. tissues-1000849_1920

I unscrewed the cap which I was about to discard until I noticed that it too was an artifact of interest to me– but that was secondary to the bottle, at least for starters. The bottle was still half full or half empty, so my next quasi-distasteful act was to pour the hazardous saliva-mixed remains down the drain despite my uncertainty regarding proper disposal procedures for what might be considered a toxic substance.

A few months back I had become aware of some new Coca-Cola campaign entitled Share A Coke. Cans and bottles of the ubiquitous beverage now have one of about 250 first names, like Debbie, along with other emotionally tinged monikers like Bestie, Grillmaster, Wingman, Mom and Dad prominently displayed on the label under the directive to Share a Coke with the dearly imprinted. Just hearing about this manipulation of the human psyche triggered my shivers down the spinal reflex. But, when I began to see the bottles for sale in my local convenience store and in the cafeteria in my office building it was downright spooky. But, here I was now, up close and personal with one.

Things must have been getting pretty bad over there at Coca-Cola. Previous promises of perpetual happiness associated with imbibing the sugar-laden, highly acidic, caffeine-laced, teeth-rotting, gut-deteriorating, illness-promoting fizzy elixir must have begun to go flat. Were sales lagging? Was the logo no longer recognizable the world over? What else could have initiated a marketing blitz that reeks of malevolence as it strives to ensnare our fragile egos and enslave our purchasing behaviors?

I remember being excited when those little mini license plates with names on them that you could attach to your bike seat first came out. But, I also recall the immediate chagrin when you could not find your own name hanging from the metal display rack. Suddenly you felt second-rate, not worthy of a plate. I am not certain of all of the psychological underpinnings that are attached to this probably billion-dollar campaign, but I am sure they are many. Does seeing our name emblazoned in such a public way make us feel validated, loved, powerful and more connected in this alienated world?

I don’t really get the campaign. I am sure, most of the time, you have to buy a bottle with someone else’s name on it. How much can you bother to search for a bottle that idolizes yourself or a loved one? Must you settle for John when you are really seeking Mario? And then, what if you don’t have a person to share it with? That is probably what happened to my bottle, Nicole. Half-finished and tossed aside, unshared and hopes dashed. Even the reward points offered on the cap were left unclaimed and discarded. Reward points? Really?

I don’t want to go any further on this except to say that this unbridled assault on our health through such methods of aggressive advertising can and does bring me to tears. I’ve written about this before. One does not have to look too hard to see the real rewards of such consumption, but you have to care to be looking and looking to care. I am too verklempt even thinking about needing to reiterate the effects of these substances anymore.

Originally, the reason I wanted to get a bottle without purchase was to be able to include it as a photo for this post–but now I don’t even wish to give it any publicity or visibility. We are clearly easy targets for seduction even when clearly it is not in our best interest. So, Nicole will now go directly into my recycling bin and instead, I am posting a photo of a box of tissues. My only hope is that an unexpected outcome of the campaign will be that with all that sharing of cans and bottles, per capita consumption will actually shrink by at least half.

Anyway, while there are sad tears there are also happy ones. I specialize in both. Recently, while also at work–it may have even been the same day that I retrieved the Coke bottle, I received an email from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. It included a video that spotlighted healthy and healing practices being undertaken at the West Side High School for at-risk students in New York City through a powerful investment in a gardening program, real food, and intensive physical activity– by a dedicated and devoted principal and staff.

Thirty-six seconds in and there I was bawling (yes) in my little, oh not so private cubicle. In my last post, Childhood Awareness Month Obesity, I wrote about my reservations about the bulk of nutrition and health activities being directed at obesity prevention efforts whereas I believe the implications and consequences of our cultural dietary and health insults are so much greater. I did not get much response on that so I would still be interested in hearing your thoughts. But, in this video, simply and beautifully, a young woman named Tenia expresses why eating proper foods is important for both emotional and physical well-being–aside from weight-based associations.

This glimpse of transformation that occurs when the birthright of health is granted, when it is given priority and nurtured, and not compromised by those so willing to sacrifice our young in an endless pursuit of profit is worth viewing. I highly recommend it. Here is the link. Note, don’t forget the tissues.

Just a mention that my own recent favorite brew has been matcha, a fine green tea powder. I enjoy it as a tea or mixed in smoothies. It is fuller or richer than regular green tea and it gently provides a touch of focus and energy. I was initiated with a gift of a package of Matcha from Kiss Me Organics that was exceptionally pleasant and which has become a welcomed part of my day and my diet. There are many benefits of matcha to explore and it can be incorporated into many recipes. Give it a peek.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

Na area da saude, Elyn

Related Posts: Private Health, Childhood Awareness Month Obesity, So-Duh

Nirinjan's Plate

Nirinjan’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

It is easier

To reprimand the sinner

Than change the system.

by Julie

whirled peas

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. logo

Thankfully, my awe and faith in humanity are 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, with 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 makes 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 from 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 soaps 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?

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, let me know which culinary delight you tried!

[Dated information: If you place an order with Farm to People by September 30th, 2014 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.]

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

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

Farm to People  My Plate 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 comes 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

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 serene 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 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 foodstuffs? 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. Let’s welcome summer,  its bounty and those who grace us with its goodness.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn 

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

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My (Jacked) Plate

My Plate Haiku

Pick your own today,

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats,

Sweet summertime fruit.

by Nan

 

 

 

 

peepin’ out

easter-2120601_640 (1)Right before Easter, 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, but apparently, this change was newsworthy.

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 professionally interpret someone’s intake while sounding like I know what I am talking about.

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! OMG. See how!

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. (Maybe best to use them to make amazing dioramas and Peep Shows.)

Eventually, 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 a 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 (link no longer available). Apparently, I can relax, it is all good. And, soon, kiddos are going to be able to make their own snacks on 3-D Printers anyways. Yikes.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Post: Wings of Desire

Related Recipe: 5-Minute Carrot Truffles (bunny approved)

(Update 2018: And, oh my goodness, it looks like there is some trouble down on the peeps farm regarding the Just Born Company’s employee pension plan.)

(Update 2020: This just in! Hot Tamale Peeps. No comment.)

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Emma’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

The farmers’ market

Each egg at the dairy stand

A different color.

by Enki

 

 

post halloween post

Well, I have made it through another scary Halloween. As I once described in The Nightmare Before Halloween, that is a holiday that certainly sends shivers down this nutritionist’s spine. All in all, things went well despite not having a pumpkin. Well, yes, I did wait to nearly the last minute, but still, it was surprising that there did not seem to be a pumpkin to be had. The nice lady at one pumpkin place told me it was a bad year for pumpkins. That might explain it. So, I got a hubbard squash instead for my homey display. They are actually more frightening looking than pumpkins anyway–so I may be on to a new trend. It may fill in as my Thanksgiving vegetarian turkey as well–and with good reason besides just kind of looking a little like a turkey. Check out the wonderful benefits of this curious curcubita as nicely compiled by “The World’s Healthiest Foods”.

One must remember that thrilling the kiddies is big in my Halloween obsessed village. So, with my hubbard squash and my new decoration this year which was a strand of felted witches hats that I looped above my front door, I was prepared to keep up with my next-door neighbors, “the Joneses”. (Go to caption link.)

Oh yeah, and then there was that perpetual pesky candy problem. I teased my always healthy, still naive young mother friend that this year we were doing Trick or Kale. She approved. But, while she baked up some nice little low-sugar treat squares and packaged them individually, warning kids that her offerings were not going to induce a diabetic coma, I was reduced again to the dissemination of some chocolate. Trying to minimize the collective damage, my designated door answerers were strongly instructed in “No Picksies!” This meant no one gets to just put their hand in the cauldron and take what they want. I reminded my daughter who came home for the evening, “They just get one kiss.”

But, along with that little morsel, all the goblins, ninjas, princesses, jellyfish (yeah, that was a really creative costume) also got a cool Eat Your Fruits and Vegetable themed sticker. Yes, really. And, really, they were a big hit–all except for one four-year-old who while walking away turned around and offered back his sticker. Not a bad rate of return given the scads of revelers of various ages ringing the bell. Two kids came to the door dressed in big cardboard boxes portraying Fruit Drink cartons. The nutritional information was all nicely handwritten along their sides. “OOOH! Scary!”, I commented, noticing the High Fructose Corn Syrup listed and gave them extra stickers.

But, as all things must eventually do, the hyperchaotic night came to an end. In the morning, the sun rose again, candy became scarce and all the children and adults were once more deprived. No, that’s not true.  In the morning, the sun rose again, and it was Pete’s birthday, and then when it rose two more times it was my blog’s birthday!

Yes, my blog is now three years old. When it turned one, I celebrated in Dear You, The Readers that my little baby blog had become a bloggler–that is a toddler in blog terminology. And, now, it is a three-year-old bloggler. It is now old enough to take on its social media contemporary, Honest Toddler with whom there are some bones to pick. Honest Toddler, that precocious child who has hijacked its mother’s computer, still has a lot to learn about nutrition. (Update: Honest Toddler’s Twitter Account has been taken away by their mother.)

While it boasted about its advanced candy procuring skills on Halloween and advocated saying Twick or Tweet instead of pronouncing the Rs as a strategy to increase one’s loot, it did quietly admit that it got scared and did a small pee-pee. While it asserts in its Twitter profile “Not Potty Trained. Not Trying.” my little bloggler is fully responsible for what it puts out and is light years ahead of it in regard to culinary sophistication.

For example, Honest Toddler publicly whined that “Arugula tastes like soap and fire had a baby”. Clearly, it does not know that this lovely oak leaf-shaped green is related to the Cruciferous family. It is chock full of sulforaphane, glucosinolates, and chlorophyll with many benefits to live for. That candy-seeking, trans-fat cracker munching child might want to start thinking about things like the prevention of macular degeneration and cancer. My smart for its age bloggler kindly suggests it start with baby arugula and recommends the kitchn’s versatile uses.

But, while there may be some definite differences between these two, they do have one toddler bearing trait in common–they LOVE attention. So, if you can, send some blog love in a blog-like way. It takes a village to raise a blog. My bloggler says, “Tank wu.”

Now just awaiting the next dietary kerfuffle–Thanksgivukkuh.

In health, Elyn

Related Posts: Nightmare Before Halloween, The Eye of the Newt, So How’d It Go

Manon & Michael’s My Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Koan

When someone goes

from cutting your grapes into fourths to cutting them in halves

Do they trust you more or love you less? by Honest Toddler

 

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

The 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?

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 wary 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 my dear friend, Susan Fowler. Susan is also a wonderful teacher and a whole lot more. Her students call her Mrs. Flower. 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

Farmer’s markets also always inspire. This summer, a day trip led me and Pete to the Saugerties Farmer’s Market in the beautiful and bountiful Hudson Valley. There, near 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. Later, 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. They not only grew but also delivered the amazing produce that graced my own table and fed my family. The film, Radical Roots: Reawakening the Local Food Movement, by Patricia Lane, features their farm. The elements captured in this story 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.

Thank you for listening, sharing, following, and supporting my writing. Please subscribe in the sidebar to receive notice of new posts. Comments and greetings always welcome.

In health, Elyn

Related Baker: Tess Beatrice at Sow Good Bakery--creatively conceived and beautifully presented delicious morsels all gluten-free, refined sugar-free, sometimes raw confections laced with unusual spices and topped with tender flower petals.

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Farmers’ My Plate Plate

My Plate Haiku

Strawberries are too delicate to be picked by machine. The perfectly ripe ones even bruise at too heavy a human touch. It hit her then that every strawberry she had ever eaten — every piece of fruit — had been picked by calloused human hands. Every piece of toast with jelly represented someone’s knees, someone’s aching back and hips, someone with a bandanna on her wrist to wipe away the sweat. Why had no one told her about this before? by Alison Luterman, “What They Came For” (from The Sun magazine)

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. Traveling 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 it’s 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 policymakers, 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.

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?

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In health, Elyn 

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Nirinjan’s Plate

MyPlate 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.)