Tag Archive | Mark Bittman

serenity now

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

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

a summer day at uncle bob's

a summer day at uncle bob’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What motivates the continued development and insidious promotion of these adulterated and manipulated 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. As always, your thoughts are welcomed. Let’s welcome summer,  its bounty and those who grace us with its goodness.

In health,

Elyn 

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

Rose's Plate

Rose’s Plate

MyPlate Haiku

Pick your own today,

Happy kids in wide-brimmed hats,

Sweet summertime fruit.   by Nan

 

 

 

 

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so-duh

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

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

I was stunned. I did not know what to do. Healthy-oriented me does really enjoy a few lines of lightly sweetened specialized iced teas but there were none of those to be found in that bastion of freon-cooled fare. Instead, there were just waters, sodas and those pouches of Capri Suns that you stick  little straws into. I panicked. The cloyingly sweet fruit juice concoctions aroused a mild nausea, the sodas provoked my usual disgust and disdain and the concession people were beginning to look at me funny.

Suddenly, the sun logo on the little orange can seemed to wink at me and I found myself saying, “Yes, I’ll have an orange soda.” When I went back to sit in my chair, Pete turned to tell me that the seat was saved…for me. He really did not recognize me with that can in my hand. The last time he saw me with a can of soda was about 1981 when we were parched and poor living in Dallas, Texas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In health, Elyn

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

erin's plate

erin’s plate

My Plate Haiku

Food is medicine

Farmers are doctors, Cooks priests

Eat, pray, eat, pray, love.

by Gordon

some big feet to fit

My first pair

Image by deshanta via Flickr

Yesterday, my first patient, Harry, was late and my second patient, Dan, was early. As I went out to the waiting room to call Dan, I saw Harry checking in with the receptionist. I had worked with him a few years back and remembered him well. He greeted me warmly and said he understood that he would have to wait. He assured me that this was not a problem.

This is a story about these two men. It probably should be two different stories. But, since the lines of their lives intersected on that morning, and since they share many commonalities–though Harry is black and Dan is white–merged for now they will be.

Harry and Dan are both 52 years old. They are both over six feet tall and over three hundred pounds, though Dan dwarfs Harry in height and weight. They both are caring fathers. Harry has some older boys while Dan has an adorable non-biological three-year old son he is raising. They are unemployed and poor, have had difficult lives and confront stress on a daily basis. They have diabetes and the usual laundry list of related issues. Impressively, and not  commonly seen, they have both successfully and proudly quit 35 year-long cigarette addictions–Harry in the past year or two, Dan about three months ago. You can see they were both once very handsome. Harry’s good looks are better preserved. Dan’s are more difficult to perceive due to his lack of teeth, long dirty stringy hair and enormous belly, but his pretty blue eyes and sculpted face tell me he was once broke a few hearts. Oh, and they both like ginger ale.

I started working with Dan a few months ago. The loud-talking, heavy-walking, gentle giant stomped into my office in June feeling lousy. He had just been diagnosed with diabetes. He described to me a life marked by serious fatigue and inertia. He spent most of his day splayed on the couch watching television while keeping an eye on his toddler son. He started his day with coffee containing a mountain of sugar, drank iced tea throughout the afternoon and despite his lack of teeth, mainly ate an enormous dinner of starchy, fatty food which he said could probably feed five. At 380 pounds and smoking at least a pack a day, he could barely climb a flight of stairs. His ability to do the odd jobs he got paid for like mowing lawns and shoveling snow was becoming too difficult.

He presented with the common combination of desperation and despair but with a twinkle in his eye. I am always looking for some sign of the life force because making change necessitates pulling  something out from the inside. Being illiterate and impoverished as Dan is, can profoundly dampen if not obliterate that inner will, but an eye twinkle is a good indicator that there is still fire within. Illiteracy and diabetes education are not a great combination but he has persevered and has made some amazing changes for someone who has only known mainly one path for half a century. He has literally and figuratively awakened recently and expresses his gratitude for the wake up call.  Though some of his work has been championed from my wonderful little office support team, he actually greatly surprised me by undertaking quitting smoking essentially from his own initiative.

At this week’s visit, he told me that his son just started a day care program at a local YMCA.  He and I  discussed previously getting a Y membership which would now be great since he has to take his son there everyday. He told me that he had tried to apply for a scholarship as I suggested, but that required bringing in some documentation and filling out some forms. Even as I handed him some free trial membership coupons I have for my clients, I knew that even this simple step requires filling out some paperwork at the other end.

At the end of our meeting, I brought him to the scale.  I asked him to remove his old, worn out heavy steel toed boots that barely had a lace left between them.  I weighed him and I weighed his boots at 4.2 pounds. Cumulatively, that is a lot of weight to drag around. Knowing the answer, I asked if he had sneakers.

With my steps already weary, I then walked back out to the waiting room to call Harry who I knew was waiting. I was still thinking about Dan–wondering how much a pair of good, supportive sneakers for his very large feet would cost. Being able to read and write and having some good sneakers sure would help this man to get moving.

I was abruptly brought back to the moment upon encountering Harry. There he was sitting at an empty table usually reserved for insurance representatives–about to dive into a take out container of eggs, bacon, home fries and toast. Though just last week I had to confiscate the bag of Swedish Fish a patient had brought into my office, in all my years I had never experienced catching anyone with a full-blown meal.  “Where did you get that?” I asked in shock.  “From the diner.” he replied. “How did you get it since I last saw you just a few minutes ago?” “I called them and they delivered it.” he explained somewhat surprised by my reaction and naiveté. “Am I busted?”  he asked. No wonder he hadn’t minded earlier if I took my time. I dragged him and the breakfast into my office.

Harry actually has a lot more personal and community resources than Dan, but right now his blood sugar and health markers are much worse–and his situation had deteriorated since I had last worked with him a few years ago. I expressed my concern. He said that he had a lot of personal and family problems recently–though he was not making excuses. He lives alone and barely cooks at home. He is a personable guy and when I asked if there are a lot of local restaurants that know him by name–he confirmed my suspicion.  Though he still has his teeth, he could soon not have working  kidneys.

We looked at pictures from an old Parade Magazine about the comic Drew Carey’s diet and weight transformation.  I told him the story of the film “May I Be Frank”. He put down the bacon and he told me he wanted his health.

I suppose I tell these tales to give a face and a fake name to the real people behind the current health crisis. Sometimes, I am hoping to inspire with stories of how people do overcome serious health and dietary challenges. Today though, I am wondering how to really help  Harry and Dan a little more. I can assist Dan with the Y application and can call Literacy Volunteers of America; I will loan Harry my DVD copy of the film. But what would those who dream, think and act big do?  Who should I call? Oprah, Shaquille O’Neal, Michelle Obama, Mark Bittman, the Tom Shoes guy? What do NBA players do with their Nike’s and and1’s after they have worn them on the courts a few times?  Is there a healthy food delivery service for patients left languishing while waiting in doctor’s and hospital waiting rooms?

If you have any ideas let me know. Besides, these guy deserve something. They have taken the biggest step to health by quitting smoking. I am thinking of lauding them by posting their photos in the health center. Maybe we could write them a Haiku? What do you think?

In health, Elyn

my plate

My Plate Haiku

The farmers’ market

Each egg at the dairy stand

A different color

by Enki

so, what’s the dilemma? summer rerun

Julia Child

Image via Wikipedia

Hello, here is a rerun of my first post which relates to my most recent post.  Reading or reviewing it may give both of us a reminder of what I am exploring on these pages.  Please feel free to visit some of my early posts which you may have missed.  I hope you are enjoying summer’s bounty.  Elyn

While mainly musing about my blog and trying to decide how to best begin to describe what my dilemma is, a copy of Mark Bittman‘s, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian blocked my path.  I say blocked because at 995 pages and weighing in at about 5 pounds, it is a boulder of a book and boulders don’t simply cross paths.

Last week, despite a 30 plus year vegetarian lifestyle, I was seeking some inspiration– as I was to be soon hosting my neighborhood vegan week dinner.  One day,  just prior to closing, I ran into my local library looking for a good cookbook, and Bittman’s book insisted that I choose it.  I could not argue and lugged the tome home and curled up with the most comprehensive compendium of my culinary clan that I had ever laid eyes on.  One does not flip through the pages, instead one takes about a one inch hunk of paper and hurls it over to see what else lies within.

An idea came flashing.  Perhaps instead of my ponderous and not very amusing idea to outline the conundrums and frustrations I face in my profession, I could instead, a la Julie Powell who made her way through every recipe in Julia Child’s, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, start cooking and blogging my way through Bittman’s vegetarian bible.  Page 38, the first page of actual recipes–simple green salad.  Sounds easy enough, but there are then three sub-recipes for greek, lyonnaise, and endive salad.  Would I have to prepare all of those too?  That could really slow things down if I had to get to page 907.  Should I call it Elyn and Mark?  Would it take me three years or four?  These seem like rightful dilemmas.  Do they not?

By the next morning’s dawn, reality came slapping me in the face.  6:30 am.  Bleary-eyed and making my daughter’s avocado, cheese and spinach sandwich for lunch.  NPR reporter in lighthearted radio voice informs me that 84% of parents fed their kid (ages 2-11) fast food in the past week according to a new report published by the Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.  I grabbed for the closest writing implements…pen and paper napkin.  Here’s what I hastily got: advertising geared to children by fast food companies has increased 34% since 2003; despite the increased availability of healthier options, 80% of diners(?) are given french fries automatically; marketing promises have not been kept; something about apple dippers(?) and many kids meals still tally up to 1400 calories.

Oh boy, another day at the office.  But, I wasn’t even at the office yet.  By the time I did arrive, a co-worker had forwarded me additional gory details of the report in a Wall Street Journal article.  The reality is though, I don’t need to read such reports. The data presents itself to me on an almost daily basis. By 10:45 a 13-year-old girl weighing 284 lbs. and with frighteningly high insulin levels portending diabetes was sitting before me.  There I was outlining the grim details to this middle schooler and her mom.  They got it.  They weren’t idiots.  But, they (and me) were up against some heavy outside forces–including billions of advertising dollars.  And that is a big part of my dilemma.

So, for now I will assign the Bittman project to the back burner.  I have other work to do, other people’s stories to tell and other battles to fight.  Perhaps best for the moment, I can just gently heave over a copy of Mr. Bittman’s book to this family.  It could serve as both a nutritional guide and exercise weight in one. Now there’s a marketing idea. Diet and exercise. That’s all it takes, right?

In health, Elyn

my plate

Haiku:  Food made joyfully/As a gift of time and self/Feeds body and soul     By Anne Marie

three good mark(c)s

Mark Bittman’s and my path have crossed at the library once again. In So, What’s the Dilemma?, I wrote about how the food writer, chef, and columnist  threw his tome, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” in my way, blocking the entire 640-680 non-fiction aisle–just to get my attention. This time he was a little more subtle. He knew I needed something simpler for my new client–a 32 year-old guy who had been a vegetarian since his early teenage years, but despite his recent attainment of fatherhood was still eating like a teenager. His wife had called me frantically seeking help.

This time as I perused the library shelf looking for some inspiration, his similarly titled, How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian Cooking stuck out conspicuously from the other offerings. It was just what I was looking for. Weighing only about eight ounces with a mere 123 pages, I thought it would be the right serving size to present to the residual adolescent.

I was glad to see that Mark had my back. Not only did he help me with my client that day.  His more recent work, Food Matters:  A Guide to Conscious Eating (2008) and the follow-up companion piece, The Food Matters Cookbook:  500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living (2010) has helped to spread my message about personal health and the politics of food to a vast and appreciative audience. Through his books, NY Times column, and TV appearances, he is raising awareness about global food issues while providing people with the ability to make change–that tastes really good–right in their own kitchens. In his own words, he has committed himself for decades to “battling the ascendance of convenient processed food and a general decline in quality”  which has contributed to the big pickle we find ourselves in.

While waiting to check out my books, I realized he is not the only Mark to have left his mark on me. The others are Dr. Mark Hyman and Marc David. I have not merely figuratively crossed paths with them. I have the pleasure of knowing  them both.

I have literally sat in Mark Hyman’s bed–it was a long time ago. Back then, he was my college housemate and friend–a doe-eyed, gentle and sensitive spiritual seeker pursuing Asian Studies. Such interest and the influence of another housemate–a nutrition graduate student–led him to both medical school and the study of Chinese medicine. Today, he is one of the leading voices in the field of alternative medicine. Not only is he a deeply caring physician, he is also a prolific writer and a leading proponent regarding the creation of a new health care paradigm.

Mark’s practice of medicine involves a whole systems approach described by a model called Functional Medicine, which of course includes nutrition and lifestyle support.   Approaching health from this point of view and really understanding that food is medicine, changes the conversation I have with my clients every day. Presenting health care from this angle is challenging in the climate that defines our practice of medicine. We are programmed to be patients, essentially dependent on a pharmaceutical-based promise of healing. Though it is endemic on all levels, this thinking is especially entrenched in the low-income communities like the one where I serve, because options are not available and the stressors are exacerbated.

Everyday I hear the pain and strain of being stuck in this prescribed role. People limp into my office with plastic bags filled with myriad medications. In spite of these, they still ache, they are often depressed, and they feel helpless and confused. But, I see the fire in their eyes and the longing in their souls as they suggest that they do not want to take an additional pill. Acknowledging that, I can remind them that they are capable of being an active participant in their own care and feeding. This is the consciousness shift that is happening through the work of people like Mark.

And then, there is Marc David, who is actually a good friend of Mark Hyman. He is less well-known than the “k” Marks, but his message is phenomenally powerful and equally important at this juncture. Marc is a nutritional psychologist, deeply learned in the areas of the physiology of eating, metabolism and digestion. He is the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. His books, Nourishing Wisdom:  A Mind-Body Approach to Nutrition and Well Being  and The Slow Down Diet:  Eating for Pleasure, Energy and Weight Loss are both revolutionary in their understanding of nutrition.

As most of the cultural chatter focuses on what we eat, Marc explores the more primal questions of who we are as eaters and why and how we eat. He writes that we can no longer separate the science of nutrition from the psychology of eating. I agree. His institute is training professionals to counsel from this perspective and his message is increasingly permeating the field. His blogs are very prescient and worthy of a read. He is a scientist, a buddhist, a healer, and a wonderful writer–but as I once told him, I think he is mainly channeling his grandmother.

So, as I continue to walk among the eaters of the world, assisting where I can, I am glad to have these three good Mark (c) s beside me. These guys, along with some other wonderfully knowledgeable and visionary people  are not only informing my work but are opening new doors to the understanding of human nourishment.

I’d be interested to know which piece of the nutritional puzzle you feel you most need to address, advance or heal your eating or health status. Is it informational, structural, shopping/cooking or emotional/behavioral  support?  Please drop me a comment. I would love to hear from you.

In health, Elyn

my plate

My Plate Haiku

Spread peanut butter

On whole grain, sweet dark brown bread

Raspberry jam–yum!    by Barbara

so, what’s the dilemma?

Julia Child

Image via Wikipedia

While musing about my blog and trying to decide how to best begin to describe what my dilemma is, a copy of Mark Bittman‘s, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian blocked my path. I say blocked, because at 995 pages and weighing in at about 5 pounds, it is a boulder of a book and boulders don’t simply cross paths.

Last week, despite a 30-plus year vegetarian lifestyle, I was seeking some inspiration– as I was to be soon hosting my neighborhood vegan week dinner. One day, just prior to closing, I ran into my local library looking for a good cookbook, and Bittman’s book insisted that I choose it. I could not argue and lugged the tome home and curled up with the most comprehensive compendium of my culinary clan that I had ever laid eyes on. One does not flip through the pages, instead, one takes about a one-inch hunk of paper and hurls it over to see what else lies within.

An idea came flashing. Perhaps instead of my ponderous and not very amusing idea to outline the conundrums and frustrations I face in my profession, I could instead, a la Julie Powell who made her way through every recipe in Julia Child’s, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, start cooking and blogging my way through Bittman’s vegetarian bible. Page 38, the first page of actual recipes–simple green salad. Sounds easy enough, but there are then three sub-recipes for greek, lyonnaise, and endive salad. Would I have to prepare all of those too? That could really slow things down if I had to get to page 907. Should I call it Elyn and Mark? Would it take me three years or four?  These seem like rightful dilemmas, do they not?

By the next morning’s dawn, reality came slapping me in the face. 6:30 am. Bleary-eyed and making my daughter’s avocado, cheese and spinach sandwich for lunch, an NPR reporter in lighthearted radio voice informs me that 84% of parents fed their kid (ages 2-11) fast food in the past week according to a new report published by the Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. I grabbed for the closest writing implements–pen and paper napkin. Here’s what I hastily got down: advertising geared to children by fast food companies has increased 34% since 2003; despite the increased availability of healthier options, 80% of diners are given french fries automatically; marketing promises have not been kept; something about apple dippers; and, many kids meals still tally up to 1400 calories.

Oh boy, another day at the office. But, I wasn’t even at the office yet. By the time I did arrive, a co-worker had forwarded me additional gory details of the report in a Wall Street Journal article. The reality is though, I don’t need to read such reports. The data presents itself to me on an almost daily basis. By 10:45, a 13-year-old girl weighing 284 lbs. and with frighteningly high insulin levels portending diabetes was sitting before me. There I was outlining the grim details to this middle schooler and her mom. They got it. They weren’t idiots. But, they (and me) were up against some heavy outside forces–including billions of advertising dollars. And that is a big part of my dilemma.

So, for now, I will assign the Bittman project to the back burner. I have other work to do, other people’s stories to tell and other battles to fight. Perhaps best for the moment, I can just gently heave over a copy of Mr. Bittman’s book to this family. It could serve as both a nutritional guide and exercise weight in one. Now there’s a marketing idea. Diet and exercise. That’s all it takes, right?

In health, Elyn

my plate

My Plate Haiku

Food made joyfully

As a gift of time and self

Feeds body and soul.  By Anne Marie