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a winning goal

I would feel a little remiss were I to not make mention this year of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). In previous years I have always made a point to do so. But, it is late. I should already be in bed. Besides, I have to get to work early tomorrow in order to partake in a webinar that is celebrating the week and its important mission. So, I will be brief. wbw2014-logo-hd

Perhaps after tomorrow’s webinar, I will have something more inspiring or informational to offer with a larger perspective. Tonight, I sit quietly with only my personal experience–the one that reminds me that twenty-six years ago at this very time I was deeply in labor, nestled in my midwife’s quiet birthing room in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. On the other side of midnight, in the dark of night of the day of my own birthday, my son would make his way into the world. Our breastfeeding relationship would begin immediately thereafter.

But, during that time, the practice of breastfeeding on a larger global scale was diminishing with serious consequences for maternal and child health, with societal and environmental implications as well. In 1981, the World Health Assembly adopted the International Code of the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, to remediate the malnutrition suffered by infants and young children due to the inappropriate marketing of commercial formula. And, then in 1990, exactly two years after my own bond was formed in connection with the dying art of breastfeeding, the Innocenti Declaration was signed by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. It designated the first week of August as World Breastfeeding Week.

Twenty-four years later, though there have been significant gains made in reversing the declining trend, there is still work to be done. There are also newer nutritional impacts of breastfeeding being investigated as we begin to better understand the myriad functions of the gut microbiome.

This year’s WBW slogan is Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life. I suppose it relates to this year’s Football World Cup. Could that be? That’s a little funny to me because my son has been a soccer player and is a devoted fan of the sport. Though no longer on the field much, he is hoping to be working in the field of professional soccer someday. May I also parenthetically add, that throughout and since the World Cup games, I’ve noticed that I have had an almost daily blog reader from Brazil–so apparently not everyone in the country was focused on the sport. A special hello to that reader(s).

The objectives of WBW 2014 are strongly linked to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set by governments and the United Nations to fight poverty and promote healthy and sustainable development in a comprehensive way by 2015. A description of how breastfeeding is linked to the MDGs can be found here. The connections are quite profound.

I am interested to see what I will learn in the course of tomorrow’s session. I will let you know if there is anything particularly interesting. In the meantime, please take a moment if you will and have a look at these powerful photos. They will say much more than my usual thousand words.

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. The webinar session was yesterday. It was sponsored by the SUNY School of Public Health and entitled, International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and Promoting and Supporting Exclusive Breastfeeding. I applaud the school’s long term commitment to this topic and recommend the session highly. I believe it will be available soon for viewing online. Dr. Ruth Lawrence, an international breastfeeding authority, and author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, whose pioneering work and advocacy for breastfeeding dates back to the 1950s, is on the panel.

The webinar described some examples of successful applications as well as egregious violations of the International Code of Marketing, and also shared some exciting outcomes in regard to increasing initiation and exclusivity of breastfeeding in some NYC hospitals and in the Vermont WIC Program due to some dedicated efforts. It also discussed commerciogenic malnutritionin this context, referring to the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and its impacts on babies, but I may ponder some wider implications as well.

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 Posts: Blessed Feeding; To She Who Loves Us Before She Meets Us; Breastfeeding Redux; Oh Mother

Today’s My Plate is the beautiful watermelon cake prepared for me by my office “birthday angel”.

Related Recipe: Watermelon Fruit Cake 

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Cathy’s My Plate

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Plate Haiku

Hearts are not just reserved for romance

Every living thing

Is in love.

by Kat

coming full circle (a blog tour)

When my friend Kat came meowing at my door last week and asked if I wanted to be part of a blog tour for writers on writing, I responded affirmatively. Mainly, I think I was trying to impress her–or at least not disappoint. Other possible invites from Kat might result in me kayaking down frightening rapids or stumbling behind in one of those extreme obstacle course races like Tough Mudder. No way would I have the courage for what those odysseys entail. I am not sure I am endowed with that many lives. But for this request, I so wished to appear brave and was actually quite humbled to find that she might consider me a fellow wordsmith. For you see, when Kat is not physically competing with the big boys, she is doing some serious kickass and beautiful writing.

What this blog tour entails is that bloggers write about their process on writing, and then pass the baton on to two other bloggers. I see it as kind of one of those old school chain letters which I was always a sucker for, though in truth they never brought me much beyond some postcards from remote strangers and some dish towels. But, hey, what’s wrong with that? Who doesn’t love receiving some nice mail and who doesn’t need extra dish towels?

So, here I am on the blog tour, though feeling I could still use a life jacket and some oars. Because, really, on a good day, rather than being a writer who writes about nutrition, I am a nutritionist who manages to do some writing. But, here I am. So, if you would do me a favor and not tell Kat that I am faking it, I will proceed and answer the requisite questions.

1. What are you working on?

Well, I am working on coming full circle in some way by reaching 100 posts on this blog–a long-held intention. I am hovering in the high nineties, but I have to be honest with myself and push a little harder because I did re-post some older pieces a few times. My blogging has been hindered significantly this year due to two things. The first was finishing a master’s degree–which I did! And, the second is that I am writing a seemingly simple curriculum for preschoolers (and their parents) that has managed to rub all the words right out of me. I am hoping that upon the upcoming completion of that, my musings here will again flow more freely. I would also like to attract some guest writers who may also help me reach my goal (hint). With that, I am trying to figure out what new directions to take with my blog. Make it a little sexier or just cease and desist.

2. How does my writing differ from others’ work in the same genre?

After having worked in what I call the “trenches” of nutrition for many years, I climbed out one day in the early to mid-oughts to find that the entire field had actually exploded–figuratively. Nutrition had become a huge topic that everyone was talking about. The food pyramid was beginning to crumble and there was much rebuilding to be done. Suddenly, there seemed to be new foods and ways of preparing them, uncovered connections between health and nutrition, and a myriad of environmental impacts related to food choices. These topics were on everyone’s mind and being addressed and expressed in powerful and creative ways. Oh yeah, and the “obesity crisis” was looming large. In this new order, there was action and reaction–lots being said and more being felt. What may, if anything, make my writing unique is its attempt to reflect the experience of the individual against the backdrop of this overwhelming modern cultural milieu of food and eating.

3. Why do you write what you do?

One day, while munching on some kale chips, it dawned on me that I had been privileged to be privy to thousands of people’s stories of being eaters. The “Jane the Eaters” so to speak. Rather unplanned, a career had unfolded that found me sitting in small, private rooms in various settings listening to tales of confusion, pain, self-berating, and guilt about the love of food, all in response to the care and feeding of the human body. And, I was hearing the stories that were spilling out onto the street as well. This week, while getting my hair cut, I discerned through the whir of the blow dryer that the client in the next chair was telling her stylist that her daughter was struggling with an eating disorder. The stylist responded matter-of-factly that when she goes out to eat, she pours water on her food to stop herself from overeating. The next day, I passed a huge semi-truck. It had a picture of thick slabs of meat plastered on its side. The truck asked, “Have I had my Tyson’s today?” Well, I don’t know if that answers the question, but bearing witness to such juxtaposed experiences, somehow compels me to write what I write about– with some hope that it can help people to be a little kinder and gentler with themselves.

4. How does my process work?

Not well, I suppose. I wish I had a process. Instead, the stories just stay trapped in my head and keep banging, until I find a precious moment to sit and let them free.

I am glad to let you know that the next stop on the tour is the blog, Inching2Wisdom written by J. Eva Nagel. Eva tells stories and shares her perspective of a rich life led both close to home and through world-wide travels. The truth is, she is already quite wise.

And, while I determine the other blog stop, I just invite you to visit the writings of Hillary Savoie at The Cute Syndrome.

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

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Koko’s My Plate

My Plate Haiku

I lick your nose, I lick your nose again,

I drag my claws down your eyelids

Oh, you’re up? Feed me.

by A Cat

(from I Could Pee on This and other poems by cats collected by Francesco Marciuliano)

Sid Caesar Salad

It happened again–my finding a nutrition-related story (or it finding me) where I least expected it. This time it was not “not a laughing matter”–but actually rather amusing.

Always appreciative of those who have made the world a funnier place, the recent passing of comedian Sid Caesar led Pete to look for some footage of this icon of American humor. I sat nearby as he clicked here and there on his computer. He immediately started laughing, listening to the “double talk” for which Caesar was particularly famous.

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Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca Health Food Restaurant

Soon I was giggling with him. A few minutes later, he told me to come to look at what he just found. I leaned over as he played a sketch for me from Caesar’s long-running TV show, Your Show of Shows, called Health Food Restaurant. This piece dates to the early 1950s. Caesar and Imogene Coca play a married couple out to dinner at a fancy New York City restaurant. Yet instead of the steak, sausage, snails and hot tamales that Caesar craves, here at the Vitality Health Food Kitchen where Coca has taken him, there is only Pala Paka plant blossoms; the Vitamin B1 B2 B3 C D and H Dinner for Two; homogenized bone meal and wheat germ with a side of cructose; and spaghutti, made from a cabbage extract and a cauliflower derivative. Caesar of course mocks, whines, pleads and gags his way through the menu as described by the waiter, played by Carl Reiner–who you may recall, I once met. But, impressed by the youthfulness and vitality of the other diners, and in an earnest attempt to appease his wife, he forgoes his personal desires and literally digs into the dinner salad served with a set of gardening tools for silverware.

Although “health food” and “plant-based” proponents and movements have probably been around since our Paleo beginnings, there was just something very surprising about seeing this sketch which was made during a period after which we seemed to have left vegetables behind on rural farms and before the Back to Nature movements of the 1970s. It was a time maybe of boiled potatoes and blanched green beans at best which also coincided with the peak years for deaths from heart disease. As this interesting history details, it was also a  time marked by an increase in the use of hydrogenated fats and vegetable oils and the advent of pasteurized milk.

I am not sure we can pinpoint the nadir of the American diet. Though the 1950s can be critiqued for its focus on meat and dairy along with the increased use of processed foods, plasticized fats, and high smoking rates, things seem to have gotten a whole lot worse since then. I don’t think we have hit bottom but there are some signs we are beginning to emerge from the Dark Ages.

Perhaps I am just being a little naive. Just as we don’t believe that people in the “old days” ever had sex, maybe I can’t imagine the nature of health food consciousness before my own time and the dietary context in which it existed. Though the use of refined sugar is presented as a modern-day scourge, its grip took hold long ago. A brief look into biographical information about health and fitness guru Jack LaLanne who was born in 1914–ages ago–interestingly states that he described himself as a sugarholic and junk food addict as a young boy with associated behavioral problems. His early education about natural foods changed the course of his life. Of course, attention to the attainment of physical, emotional and spiritual health has coursed through human history, the admonishment of gluttony is a big theme in the Bible, and there have always been grandmas telling us to eat our vegetables.

Nonetheless, Health Food Restaurant seems quite anachronistic for its day–at least six years before Jack LaLanne’s pioneering fitness show began airing nationally in 1959. Although it was just a spoof, it seemed rather prescient addressing current anti-aging and food toxicity issues. One of the dishes is mentioned to be good for the ankles. The edema of the lower extremities is a common symptom of poor heart, kidney or liver function. Interestingly, Sid Caesar who seriously battled alcohol addiction and depression eventually became a devoted natural food and fitness adherent to which he credited his healing–and maybe his longevity, being 91 at the time of his passing.

The sketch touched on a few things that I think about. It reveals the intensity of our food attachments and belief systems and even their influence on relationships. Though we usually reference money, sex and religion as divisive issues, food, and eating habits probably belong somewhere on that list.

Additionally, it looks at the center of a society’s dietary culture at any given time and how far out is its fringe. How and why did the standard American diet evolve and deteriorate in such a relatively short period of time compared to other cultures? What was sacred and what was sacrilege as we shifted from rabbit stew and acorns to beef and potatoes, to chicken nuggets and french fries? Nature, economics, politics, biology, capitalism, and science all drove this complicated national trajectory. For all that was good and bad, it seems that we did not slow down and smell the Pala Paka blossoms and those that did were either ignored or derided. It is interesting now to see how the tide is turning as we confront current health and environmental crises. It is those who were on the fringe who may be forging our new direction.

Mockery is an innate behavior with evolutionary purposes that makes us defensively joke before we proceed. Some from the tribe must be brave enough to venture out while the others sit back and have a good laugh at their expense. Thank God laughter seems to be good for our health. I am particularly grateful to those who bless us with their humor because as I look down as I stomp around in the primordial swamp of our food culture, I see far too many swollen ankles–enough to break my heart. RIP Mr. Caesar.

Well, as they say at the Vitality Health Food Kitchen, “Good Health To You and Good Health To Everybody”.

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 2020: RIP Carl Reiner who recently passed away at age 98–vital until the very end.)

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Susan’s My Plate Drink

My Plate Haiku

Do you carrot all for me?

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

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

Weed make a swell pear. Author unknown

(This post is dedicated to my friend Susan who is heading out to join the Peace Corps. May her plate be filled with tasty Armenian cuisine and her heart  with good things.)

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)

just today

Just today, I got an email informing me that the way to eat carbohydrates more efficiently and prevent the insulin resistance associated with diabetes is to take Cinnamomum Burmannii, Berberine, Pterocarpus Marsupium, 4-hydroxy isoleucine, #5 – R-Alpha Lipoic Acid (R-ALA). These substances are available in combination in pill form. Well, that sounds nice and easy, I thought. Now just how could I obtain some of these little Burmanniis and Marsupiums for all of the inefficiently carbohydrate-eating, diabetes-prone poor folk. I wished nutritional supplements were available to my clients. I’d settle for some R-Alpha Lipoic Acid.  IMG_3170

Just today, I did not attend the bariatric conference that I went to last year and described in How Can You Say No to a Brownie.  Therefore, I missed the session on Diet Strategies: Which work and which don’t. I guess I will have to wait, along with the rest of the world, on that breaking news.

Just today, I culled through the medical records of a number of clients at the Health Center, collecting data for a project I am working on. Medical records are literature. They contain the stories of lives weathered by poverty documented by scads of lab results, vitals, hospital discharge papers and consult notes. Lives marked by the chronic health problems of diabetes, hypertension, pain, extreme weight, and hospitalizations. Conditions tended to by a boatload of pharmaceuticals, prescribed in an oft crapshoot manner.

Just today, I missed the webinar I had registered for with Renegade Chef Ann Cooper. Without an ounce of rocket science, she is feeding kids healthy foods in schools. I was disappointed. This would have brought some hope and inspiration.

Just today, I received an e-health report from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science describing that 50% of people with hypertension do not have it controlled. I thought about all the records I had just pored over. Most of those with uncontrolled hypertension are on one to three hypertensive medications.

Just today, I wished again–this time for stress reduction programs for my clients. I left my office near tears. I dreamed about a new line of work.

Just today, on my way home, I heard a news story that the US Army had declared a service-wide stand down to bring attention to the problem of suicide in the military. Army bases around the world were shut down for mandatory suicide prevention training.

Just today, I took a walk. I thought about processed food. I use tweezers to extricate it from my clients’ lives though I could use something a bit stronger–like a Jaws of Life. I wondered about a stand-down calling for a moratorium on the low-quality foodstuffs that glut our food supply. I decided that we need a National Day of Nurturing and Nourishment.

Just today, my amazing, earth-moving niece Shanti shared some stories about the beautiful and remarkable greening, gardening, and food work she does with the Clinton Housing Development Company and Cultivate HKNY in the midst of New York City.

Just today, going to pick up my daughter from crew practice, I drove along a quiet road with the sun setting spectacularly on one side while the harvest moon rose beautifully over the other. Arriving home, I read the team’s paperwork asking me to sell David’s Cheesecakes, Grandma’s Pies and cookie dough for a fundraiser. My heart sank. My inability to broker in sugar will cost me some bucks as I will have to choose the buyout.

Just today, I wrote this blog. As I was calling it a day, an old friend posted information about an organization doing wonderful work. I was glad to learn about One.org which is working with women to address childhood malnutrition and putting nutrition on the global agenda.

Just tonight, I shut out the light, deciding I would do a new little campaign at the Health Center. I will call it One Day One Way encouraging people to take back their own health. By the light of the moon, I wished you all good night.

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

my plate

My Plate Haiku

If only we could
Change the world on that one day
By feeding our hearts .

by Julie

vegan envy

“As some of you already know, it is Meat Week here on Morning Edition“. So starts Steve Inskeep in a report on NPR last week– which means that a few million people did actually know. But, coincidentally, or as I prefer to think, karmically, it was also Vegan Week here in my little village, and my, what a Vegan Week it was.

For a little background on Vegan Week, visit my post, Be Kind to Animals, which gives the history of this event– which was until recently known to about seven people. However, this time around, the Village Veganistas took on a few new cocktail-concocting guests. One evening we were barely contained in our host’s small home as our table grew to eleven. And, the next night we literally spilled out onto the porch as our numbers increased even more–along with the temperature. The word was out. Our giddiness, fueled by the exquisiteness of the meals–plus the fresh strawberry cosmos and daiquiris–could no longer be contained. The curious fringe came circling, like lions ready to pounce on some new meat–but alas, all that they found was some kale salad with fennel and cannellini beans, vegan egg rolls, and some rice stuffed cabbage. Ah, but they pleaded to stay and begged for more.

As I listened in on Meat Week’s offerings with its stories of the evolution of carnivores in America, my single compartment stomach churned and felt a little queasy. Reported was that Homo sapiens evolved as meat eaters– which apparently accounted for the increased size of our brains. Even so, eating meat was essentially a game of catch as catch can for many a good year. The advent of animal husbandry increased access to and consumption of meat, but for the most part, it was tendered to the reigning aristocracy. It was here in America, due to the vast amount of pastureland plus some good old ingenuity, that meat became amply available–and at a cheaper price– thus elevating meat-eating to a national pastime.

The rest is a mere hundred plus-year-old history that brings us to today and the 30 million cows we now have in this country. Some standard meat factoids are that: it takes 20-30 pounds of feed to produce one pound of beef; it takes 53 gallons of water to produce one hamburger; one-third of all crops grown are fed to animals; two-thirds of the water that we use is for agricultural purposes; cattle raising contributes to vast deforestation and air and water pollution; and, Americans eat 270 pounds of meat, per person, per year.

Two hundred and seventy pounds? Per person? Per year? That is like 10 ounces per day. The world average is 102 pounds and all those people in India are consuming only about seven pounds. Only folk in tiny Luxembourg eat more, but Australians are right up there as well. Though people are eating less beef, chicken has quickly taken its place because of the work of Frank Purdue and others who fostered industrialized chicken production only a few decades ago.

Apparently, though, there is a turnaround trend occurring and people are starting to eat less meat. It seems that this is mainly due to economics but also to concerns about health, the environment, and animal welfare. This news left me ruminating. How primal is this need for meat? Could a week of eating a diet entirely devoid of animal products provide some answers to this evolutionary debacle?

This is about our seventh seasonal celebration of Vegan Week. We are usually corralled to gather when my next-door neighbor Carrie clears a spot on the table of her own busy life to find the space for our culinary, dietary and social intention. I was actually quite surprised then when the summoning email arrived this time, as Carrie is a candidate for the NY State Assembly. She is already busy campaigning around our district, making appearances at various, sometimes hot dog hawking, events. But true to her commitment to community, she did not forget the Veganistas.

This Vegan Week held now the excitement of  Carrie’s candidacy. We sometimes had to save a plate for her as she arrived late due to some campaign work. But that was not the only thing that marked this week. All the meals that we share are incredibly good, prepared by some excellent cooks. However, on Thursday night, unassuming and sweet Danielle, a relatively recent addition to the circle, brought Vegan week to new culinary heights. Her menu began with a vegan version of the traditional Italian soup Pasta Fagioli. She used those adorable little ditalini noodles accompanied by a homemade, perfectly fennel-seasoned gluten sausage. We were just getting over that flavorful experience when we beheld her main course, a Seitan Picatta.

This dish consists of a baked potato cake, topped with a tofu-based creamed spinach and a seitan cutlet with a lemon and caper wine sauce. She obtained the recipe from “Chef’s Table, The Kitchen of Angel Ramos” the head chef at Candle 79, a vegan restaurant in Manhattan. Danielle’s execution was exquisite. She made her own seitan cutlets which were the most tender I have ever tasted. The presentation was beautiful as well. After our first bites–we squawked like happy free-range chickens. Oh, and yes, dessert. A perfect chocolate cake. Our newbie guests were amazed.

Couldn’t this great fare appease us modern Homo sapiens? Exquisite taste with a  slightly chewy bite? Might less meat possibly expand our “knowing man” taxonomy to also include “homo ecologicus, homo amans, and homo poetica”–ecological, loving and makers of meaning?  Let’s chew on that at the Interdependence Day BBQ.

According to Meat Week, 7 billion hot dogs will be eaten in the US this summer. Given that about twelve ordinarily carnivorous individuals consciously chose to avoid any animal-derived products on this last week of June, let’s make that 6,999,999,988.

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 Resource: LIVEKINDLY

Related Recipe: Seitan Picatta

Danielle’s My Plate Plate

My Plate Haiku

Grasses, grain, fruit, wine

Garden flowers produce joy

Kitchen flours bread. By Gordon

 

 

 

 

attacking the causes of obesity, really?

I have been having what I suppose you could call a blog clog lately, or maybe a blogade. Lots of stuff and stories going around in the brain but they are experiencing a log jam while trying to get out in some type of orderly fashion.

Howard Johnson's Restaurant

Howard Johnson’s Restaurant

This seems to have started when Pete showed me a Jane Brody article from the New York Times a few weeks back called, “Attacking the Obesity Epidemic by First Figuring Out Its Cause”. I should probably just have considered it a moot subject and ignored it, but it wrapped its little serifs around me and wouldn’t let go. You mean we haven’t already figured this out? Apparently not. And, this is the missing piece that has still been feeding the epidemic so to speak?

According to Ms. Brody, an impressive team of experts spent the last two years investigating the big O and published their conclusions in a series of reports in The Lancet. I will assume that what she goes on to describe is a reflection of their findings and not a cover-up for some obscure but shocking discoveries that will remain hidden in a boring medical journal.

Apparently, the impressive experts determined that the demise of the following is responsible for the puddle of fat we now find ourselves in. From the 1940’s through the 1970’s more or less– the years that preceded the epidemic–we played, walked and biked more; watched less TV, ate meals prepared at home by moms who mainly did not work, ate out only for special events, downed mainly hot or cold cereal for breakfast, had fewer mass-produced convenience foods, and consumed fewer refined carbohydrates as well as fewer calories.

I will try to keep my cynicism to a minimum but remember I did warn you about this side of me in Diet for a Small Caterpillar. Maybe this is breaking news or perhaps fascinating ancient history to those born after those more svelte decades, but two years of research, really? Those impressive experts could have just come and asked me, or better yet could have paid me. I’d love to be a paid impressive expert. I was actually one of those referenced skinny, cereal eating, hop-scotching kids on a bike, who occasionally ate out at Howard Johnson’s with my family when my non-working mother was too tired to cook. Wait, how old are those exalted researchers, anyway?

With all due respect to Drs. Gortmaker and Swinburn, et al who were cited in the article– unless I am remiss for not reading the source material, this is superficial and obvious stuff. A lot has changed since that time and the changes have had many effects on the human experience besides causing obesity. I think it is myopic to put the attack and hence the shame and blame only on those walking around with the visible consequences of our societal shifts or imbalances. Many things have increased since the 1970s besides weight like rates of divorce, cancer, childhood poverty, autism, learning disabilities, alcoholism, underage drinking, the perverse pursuit of thinness and high school dropout rates–and all carry a high cost as well–but these conditions are invisible in the rising tide of humanity. Still, even if we are to keep our attention just on the problem of obesity, one could identify other significant and more profound influences.

One of my impressive experts, Marc David, who I introduced previously in Three Good Mark(c)s, meaningfully and sensitively addresses this topic in his article, ‘A New Way to Lose Weight–Listen to It’. Moving beyond the easily observed poor food choices that plague us, he explores causes of the emotional hunger we face these days that propel people to overuse or abuse food. These are very important, and when personified, they are what present in my office every day–repressed feelings, unmet needs, self-doubt, chronic stress, disconnection from one’s body and loneliness.

These are associated as well with the larger cultural issues that he dares expose. These are not new, but the ramifications are coming to a head, perhaps similar to global warming. He speaks of a nation that has valued excess and overconsumption; a culture that values speed and ease; a world filled with fear, anxiety, and mistrust; and, a people separated from their spiritual source.

Though I don’t fit their demographic, I have come to enjoy reading the magazine, Outside. It is for those who live the active life–in a rather bold way–and is a tad less dry than The Lancet. In a recent issue, there was an article, Jamie Oliver Will Work 4 Food about renegade British chef, Jamie Oliver, who is sincerely trying to clean up our country’s food mess. I admire Oliver’s means and message. I share his penchant for crying. The author, Jeff Gordinier, describes the obstacles Oliver is facing here in America. He writes, “As one wag put it, Oliver “just doesn’t get the fact that excessive consumption is woven into our national DNA.” This concurs with some of what Marc David is saying.

If a lack of identifying causes is impeding solving the problem, then acknowledging our national and personal constitutional makeups is as important as looking at what we are eating for breakfast now, well, compared to in my day. Doing so would help to explain why we lay down reason in the feeding of ourselves and our children.

My own causative list would go even further. It implicates the usurping of the practice of medicine by the pharmaceutical industry, unethical corporate practices and the disempowerment of women in pregnancy and birth for starters. I’ll leave it there for now. As I’ve hopefully unclogged the blog, I will be able to pick up on those topics soon.

Stay posted. I promise that will be fun. And tell me what would be on your list.

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

my plate

My Plate Haiku

Hunger tiptoes in

From bellies, hearts or minds

Feed me now she calls.

By, Eva

haiku for you

eggs of many colors

Different Colored Eggs  Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

I just had a new culinary experience. Recently, I was able to escape for the weekend to the beach. After a few hours’ drive with more than a touch of slow-moving traffic, my sister-in-law Eva and I arrived in the lovely coastal town of Newburyport, Massachusetts just in time for dinner.

While stuck in traffic we tried to think about where we would eat, but once there we just decided to see where our feet and stomachs would lead us. We found ourselves in Loretta, a small, cozy restaurant in the center of town with an interesting menu. Actually, each dish we shared presented something unusual and delicious, but it was the grilled romaine salad that surprised and delighted me.

I do live a rather small, parochial life, but I’d be interested to know if anyone else has ever had a grilled romaine salad. Fortunately, we were sharing, because most of a full head of romaine lettuce, each leaf brushed in olive oil and grilled whole, arrived before us, draped in a creamy and chunky blue cheese dressing, and adorned with some pickled beets and cherry tomatoes. The grilling of the lettuce lent a delicate smokiness and crispness to each bite that was wonderful. That salad was deserving of a Haiku, which is what I initially sat down to write about.

As you may recall, in my last post, Dietary Haiku, I put out a request for such. I am so pleased to report, that I received four. Now, that may not sound that impressive but they are each so beautiful, and I want to share them with you in hopes that you will see, as I have, that I think I am onto something. I hope you will now be really inspired to compose your own and to send it my way.

In response to the mundane display of the USDA MyPyramid–really just a triangle if you ask me–and now supposedly, The Plate, guiding our dietary intake, I have decided to place one of these Dietary Haiku on each of my future posts. I think you will agree that they are more inspirational and joyful. Soon then, I imagine that this little idea will spread (and go viral) and we will have created a more meaningful message and conversation about food and eating that started right here.

I was discussing this idea with my daughter and her friend at the dinner table tonight, and they raised some good questions. Jonathan wanted to know if the themes had to be positive or could they be negative–like a 5-7-5 syllable format ending with that is so yukky! I said I would encourage everyone to keep the message affirming. Zena wanted to know how we would market or copyright this idea so that we might get rich because someone else was likely to come along and start promoting Dietary Limericks. I didn’t have an answer to that, but if you do, can you please send it to me in lieu of or in addition to your haiku, limerick or another poetic expression of dietary inspiration. Submissions can be placed in the comment section.

So, here are these beautiful poems in the order I received them, along with one of my own. Thank you to the four of you who got it and shared your little gift with me. I will keep incorporating these and hopefully, this collection will grow. Pl

   Are we what we eat

Or do we eat what we are

     Are they the same thing?     

— Julie

The farmer’s market

Each egg at the dairy stand

A different color

— Enki

Spread peanut butter

On whole grain, sweet, dark brown bread

Raspberry jam-Yum!

— Barbara

Food made joyfully

As a gift of time and self

Feeds body and soul

— Anne Marie

Deep scarlet red beets

Reveal your sweetness to me

Slip out of your skins

                                                                                                — Elyn

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 Recipe: Grilled Romaine Salad with Blue Cheese

Related Posts: Dietary Haiku, Accepting Haikus

Dietary Haiku

japanese maple

Japanese Bonsai Plant      Image by cskk via Flickr

Here are a few things that happened in my nutritional life this past week. First, I had a client come into my office bummed out about being fat. She sat down and immediately pointed to different parts of her body that she deemed fat. Of utmost disgust were her arms and her big belly. They definitely had to go. She quieted a little as she said she didn’t mind being big in the thighs and butt, and she thinks her hubby actually likes her like that. I asked about her eating habits. A number of issues presented, including the fact that her husband is incarcerated.

I asked how she felt about me making some suggestions. Without skipping a beat, she replied that she would think it was none of my business and I should leave her alone. Despite her distress, she was not ready for a change–a common human experience. Most often I find some traction, but I did not try too hard in this instance and gave her space. (She did eventually come back and see me again.)

Next, my very own brother, in a comment on my recent post, Diet for a Small Caterpillar informed me that only a small percentage of people actually care about nutrition. I wanted to protest, but he is my big brother and he does seem to know about a lot of things.

And, then, the very next day, the United States Government, without giving me very much notice, obliterated the Food Pyramid and issued the newest expression of the most up to date dietary guidelines–the USDA MyPlate.

Briefly, here is my initial response to the MyPlate. Though I appreciate the challenge and consider it an improvement, its teaching concept has been around for a while now, so I am surprised it is being touted as something unique and innovative. While hailed for its message to eat more fruits and vegetables, I think that is also old news. It is overly simplistic as our national food icon.

It does not really relate to how people eat breakfast and lunch and is not relevant to how many even eat dinner. It does not align with most cultural cuisines and supposes a basic meat and potatoes dietary structure. My dinner plate rarely resembles it. It evades many deeper nutritional questions about protein, dairy, fats, and digestion. Disconcertingly, right under the plate, it says, “Balancing Calories: Enjoy your food but eat less.” This makes a broad assumption about all eaters and ignores the serious issues of those who may need to eat more for various reasons.

Essentially, this model has convinced me that it is time to abandon such efforts. If what my brother says is true, that few people even care; or as my client suggests, that not everyone wants to hear it, why do we keep trying to promote this short shelf life, stale message with such a stagnant image? Maybe it is time to try something new to spread meaningful dietary practice.

I sometimes enjoy a line of iced teas from a Japanese company called Ito En. On their bottles, they offer a nice little haiku. Haiku is a Japanese form of provocative poetry that provides a sense of sudden enlightenment simply, intensely and directly. The bottle I now hold says: ten heron heads blow as pampas grass in the morning fog. Lovely, even though it doesn’t stick to the 5–7–5 traditional haiku structure. Maybe because the tea is distributed in Brooklyn or because it is a form that is flexible. Gazing at this bottle, I am inspired to suggest that we should develop Haikus with various themes to promote nutritional messages with greater nuance. Or, perhaps it would be more American to create some jingles. This could employ many creative artists, and I am sure their output would be funnier or more beautiful than anything produced by our governmental agencies. Michael Pollan’s missive, Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants, could be turned into a catchy dance number.

Just as I was about to declare the week a washout, one other thing happened. On Friday, I was at one of the three schools where I work with the School-Based Health Program. It was my last visit before summer vacation. I prepared a little healthy snack for the kids I had met with during the year and called them down individually to say good-bye. The message I try to instill in these young children is that they each have an amazing and wonderful body. They are all smart enough to choose to care for their bodies in various ways and can make many decisions for themselves about what and how they choose to eat.

In this closing session, I asked these adorable nine to thirteen-year-olds, what have they been paying attention to based on things we had previously talked about. Without much explanation, they each understood this vague question and all had at least a small answer. Some had big impressive answers. My dimming faith was ignited once again. So, maybe this is the relevant dietary inquiry–What are we paying attention to? There is a lot to choose from in this crazy, nutty, nutrition world.

What message would inspire you or what do you think we need to hear? Is the truth of the matter that our governments’ policies are incongruent with an appropriate dietary promotion or our personal experience as eaters? What are you paying attention to?

Please allow yourself a creative moment to pen your own dietary haiku, jingle or other poetic expression and send it along in a comment. Let’s see what emerges.

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 Posts: Your Pyramid; Diet for a Small Caterpillar; Haiku for You; Accepting Haikus

My Plate Haiku

Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. by Michael (Pollan)

wait wait michael pollan

American science journalist and author Michael...

Michael Pollan Image via Wikipedia

Oh, dear Michael Pollan. You got schooled–and on National Public Radio no less. I am so sorry. You must realize that nutritionists and comedians are not a good mix–even if you are really just a journalist. You should have known better. I hope you will be more careful the next time.

Here’s where I was when this public humiliation happened. In my kitchen concentrating fiercely on grout. Yes, grout. For the past few months, I have been held hostage by a kitchen renovation project. My release was imminent, but not until I finished grouting the backsplash tile. My contractor guy left me home alone equipped with a grout float, a grout sponge, a bucket and a milk carton-like container of powder with indecipherable directions.

Normally, my husband, Pete, provides me a task and temperament appropriate playlist of music before I undertake such projects–but not then. I just turned the radio on to find the weekly broadcast of the NPR game show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. I hear it occasionally, but I am not a regular listener. Just as I was trying to decide if I could really grout and listen to an inane game show at the same time, they announced the guest of the day–food and food economics guru, proponent of the sustainable food movement, and my blog name inspirationeven though he won’t admit that we are from the same once big potato farm–Michael Pollan. I now had no choice but to turn up the radio and begin mixing the grout powder with water.

The host touted Pollan’s accomplishments, listed The Omnivore’s Dilemma as one of his landmark works and asked him to describe some of the basic tenets of his nutritional philosophy. That is where the pounding began by none other than Paula Poundstone. Ouch. It pains me to recall the situation.

All serious-like, Pollan started out by saying we need to distinguish between food and edible food-like substances. Right off, Ms. Poundstone managed to get her mouth in. She announced to Mr. Pollan, that Ring Dings are one of her reasons for living. Were they not considered food? She informed him that they only have three ingredients–devil’s food cake, a creamy filling, and a rich chocolate outer coating. Pollan pathetically informed her that the creamy filling is not real cream. She retorted that it is C-R-E-M-E-Y and asked him, “What the hell’s the matter with you?”

Pollan stammered and began to comfort her that it is ok to have such a treat once in a while. She interrupted to remind him that she said they constituted a role in her reason for living and asked if he was suggesting that she save it for one day a year. Meekly, he said that he would not want to deprive her of that. This “Battle in Berkeley” as the show was called, taped in Pollan’s adopted hometown, was now calling for my attention at the risk of hardening my grout mixture. Poundstone, now ready to fully devour her prey, attacked with, “You may know a lot about food, but you don’t know the first thing about living, buddy.”

The host intercepted, trying to save his guest, and asked Pollan another question. This led Pollan to tell a little story about shopping at ‘The Berkeley Bowl’. The local crowd went crazy at the mention of this Berkeley food oasis. For the wider radio audience, he had to describe the large grocery store as full of all sorts of wonderful produce, grass raised beef, etc. He jabbed at Poundstone, that the store would be like her idea of hell, but the comment fell flat and got no response. The indignity finally ended only after Pollan was made to answer three questions about electronic Japanese Supertoilets. Forget the backsplash. At this, I felt the sclerosis of my own inner being.

This may have all been in the name of fun and games, but to us real nutritional professionals, this is the substance of what we do. The Paula Poundstones of the world are who fill the cracks and crevices of the story behind the dogma–though most are not nearly as funny. Right now, I am considering using a photo of Ring Dings as the graphic for my post. But, I know that mere visual suggestions of such foods can cue unhealthy feeding behaviors. I’d prefer not to feed into that so to speak. But, I will be torn. I am sure they will be more colorful and enticing than any stock photo I may find of Mr. Pollan.

If Ms. Poundstone was my client, we might explore such issues as food addiction, what role food is playing in her life, comfort eating, insulin resistance, effects of sugar, menopausal weight gain, food sensitivities, the seduction of chocolate and motivation for dietary change. Inside, I’d be grappling with the question of what do I know about living and the sacrifice of putting down the beloved Ring Ding and stepping away.

These are the things I muse about daily. The crossroads of food, health, the environment, and pleasure. I am an adherent to the pathways that Mr. Pollan promotes as essential for increased sustainability and to rescue our birthright of health. I am grateful for how his writings have advanced this work. However, I hope he has gleaned that it is one thing to write about this stuff, another to work it in the wild. Throughout my career, I have often joked that after a long day at the office, I am grateful to go out to the parking lot and find that there is still air in my tires. That I have not pissed off the Ms. Poundstones in my role as the messenger and that I have still maintained my sense of humor in this work.

Well, by now, the renovation is done. Fortunately, I have now added grouting and caulking to my resume. By my professional assessment, I think there will always be work to do in the proverbial kitchen.

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

The closest I come to comedians is that I keep an article about Drew Carey’s transformational weight loss on the bulletin board in my office. With that, I can trust that he can be solely a source of inspiration rather than nervous perspiration.

Related Post: Holistic, Intuitive Eating, Community-Based Nutritionist Seeking Michael Pollan

My Plate Haiku

Drink tea and nourish life.  With the first sip joy.

With the second, satisfaction.

With the third, danish.

by Jewish Grandpa