Some commentary about the universality of certain experiences…and Darth Vader

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Looks like that row south of Grenville to me. Photo by flickr user Canterbury. Used by Creative Commons License. All rights revert to originator.

From a social media posting:

“I was a punk rock guy in my teens. The local punk rock house was rented by one of our better local bands, the guitarist of which later ‘grew up’ and became a professional chef in a really neat, innovative restaurant (before killing himself with heroin). The things he could make out of last night’s rice and today’s beans…I learned a lot about cooking on the large and cheap from him.

“It’s funny to me, but when I moved to the island of Grenada I noticed immediately these punk rock cook-ins came about the same way the locals would organize a cookout. Whatever you had to offer –be it your share of fish from this morning’s net or a hand of plantain from your yard or a big dasheen root from the market– would all be brought and all go into a big pot over a fire. Sometimes that pot would yield oildown, sometimes fish waters, sometimes something else. Every time though a group would form when the head chef/host judged the pot ready. The fisherman and farmer who provided so much to the pot get their fill, but the wives and children and neighbors with empty bellies who happen by all eat too. There is no such thing as leftover oildown. It just impressed me that this communal way of eating –one that acknowledges our common humanity and our original cooperative social modality– seems to spontaneously arise in certain communities, even at great geographical and sociological distance. It is as if sharing and the concept of ‘enough’ are actually coded somewhere in our DNA, like the last shred of The Force that resided in and ultimately redeemed Darth Vader.”

2008 study found fast food hamburgers were only 12% meat. The rest was water, bone, cartilage, plant matter, and parasites

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If you’re hitting the road this July 4th weekend, consider taking something healthy to eat with you from home. This 2008 study reveals the contents of fast food hamburgers include far more unsavory substances than meat. Hard as it is for humans to abjure their genetically-programmed hunger for mechanically-separated animal proteins, conscious carnivores might do well to think twice about the provenance of their provender:

Fast food hamburgers are comprised of little meat (median, 12.1%). Approximately half of their weight is made up of water. Unexpected tissue types found in some hamburgers included bone, cartilage, and plant material; no brain tissue was present. Sarcocystis parasites were discovered in 2 hamburgers.

Er…ah…just an order of fries, thank you. Read in greater detail if you dare.

More good news for vegetarians: bacon will flat-out kill you

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The latest news from the human race’s war on its own health:

As of June 2009, 26,344 deaths were observed. After multivariate adjustment, a high consumption of red meat was related to higher all-cause mortality (hazard ratio (HR) = 1.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.01 to 1.28, 160+ versus 10 to 19.9 g/day), and the association was stronger for processed meat (HR = 1.44, 95% CI 1.24 to 1.66, 160+ versus 10 to 19.9 g/day). After correction for measurement error, higher all-cause mortality remained significant only for processed meat (HR = 1.18, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.25, per 50 g/d). We estimated that 3.3% (95% CI 1.5% to 5.0%) of deaths could be prevented if all participants had a processed meat consumption of less than 20 g/day. Significant associations with processed meat intake were observed for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and ‘other causes of death’. The consumption of poultry was not related to all-cause mortality.

For reference, 20g of bacon is approximately one slice. Who eats one single slice of bacon ever?

30-50% of world food production never reaches human stomachs

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From the Institution of Mechanical Engineers; a puzzling, sad report:

Yet due to poor practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as market and consumer wastage, it is estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 billion tonnes) of all food produced never reaches a human stomach.


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Originally uploaded by wesh

Made this for self & kids tonight. Lovely stuff…sherry, salt, sweet-acid tomatoes…

Strawberry Muffins

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Here’s a recipe Addie & I are trying tonight from Patricia Stevenson & Michael Cook’s ‘The Whole Foods Diabetic Cookbook.’ We’re also making the blueberry muffins on p. 82, but here’s the recipe for the Strawberry Muffins from p. 81.

Our Strawberry Muffins
Our Strawberry Muffins

Strawberry Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Mix together in a medium bowl:

  • 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 c. oats, coarsely ground in a blender [or food processor, or even chopped by hand if need be]
  • .5 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

Blend together:

  • 1 tbsp. liquid sweetener
  • .25 c. lowfat soy milk or rice milk
  • .75 lb. tofu, crumbled
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Add carefully to the dry ingredients, and avoid over-mixing.

Fold in:

  • .5 c. sliced strawberries

Bake in lightly oiled or nonstick muffin cups for 20 to 25 minutes.

Per Serving:

  • Exchanges: 1 starch
  • Calories: 99
  • Total Fat: 2g
  • % of calories from fat: 18%
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Protein: 5g
  • Carbohydrate: 15g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Sodium: 4mg
  • Calcium: 35mh

‘diabetic dad’

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As one who has hit his life’s reset button so frequently the type is worn off, there’s something very familiar about all of this. I recognize how lucky I am to have a cooperative partner in Addie and faithful fellow travelers in what my friend Jessica calls ‘the village.’

Making Addie’s lunch for the first time this morning I found myself absentmindedly falling into the old routines. The slice I had already mindlessly jellied (with low-sugar strawberry of course) became my breakfast, and I toasted another slice before carefully measuring out her pb and her j. What was old is new again. A ground-shift in perspective and my mindfulness horizon is reset as well.

It is as if we have added one to our number. Like an infant it demands attention. Likewise, there is no alternative to success in its care. I told Addie this morning in the hallway outside her classroom “Do you realize this is my first morning as a diabetic dad?” She perked up, cocked her head, squinted, and said “Really?” “Yep. Really.” I don’t know if it all just seemed so ‘normal’ to her or if she’s already becoming an old hand at self-management, but after a morning of old favorites (sleeping in, the venerable Dad Sandwich, listening to NPR, Lego-tinkering) I think perhaps we shared a moment of perspective on her condition: that our lives have not been disrupted, only that we have been asked to live them more mindfully and with greater appreciation.

Eat Local: Urban Beekeeping

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The very idea of ‘eating local’ or the ‘100-mile Diet‘ taken here to a whole new level.

But this rooftop honey will be hyper-local, coming from nectar within three miles of the hotel, which is how far bees fly from their hives. Kelly, who buys most seasonal vegetables and meats from local producers, is interested in digging deep into the origins of the products he serves.

And, “I just thought it would be fun to have our own bees. I love the educational aspect of it, learning about where it comes from. It fits into the food and beverage goals of the hotel, being sustainable, local, and efficient. We’re supplementing our supply of something we use a ton of, on an unused part of the hotel: the roof.”

Big, ossified organizations have to be willing/able to entertain even the possibility of such changes in their ways of doing things. Putting bees on the roof of a corporate hotel does nothing to enhance shareholder value, but that can not be taken to mean there is no good to be realized from doing so.

The only thing that separates us from new efficiencies is garden-variety change aversion. Rooftop gardens, urban chickens, replacing non-native (even invasive) ornamental plants with native food-bearing plants…these are the tiny steps that can and should turn urban deserts into productive landscapes.

Rooftop Beekeeping
(Left to right:) Richard Stewart of Carriage House Farms; Todd Kelly, food and beverage director of the Hilton Netherland Plazal; and Megan Ketover, the hotel's pastry chef, examine bee hives on the sixth-floor roof. Kelly and Ketover plan to use the honey in the hotel's cuisine. / The Enquirer/Polly Campbell

The Morality of Meat

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Hogs in a Confined Animal Feeding Operation
Hogs in a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)

Jeff McMahan, professor of Philosophy at Rutgers, offers a trenchant examination of the problems inherent in the modern practice of meat eating:

“Our own form of predation is of course more refined than those of other meat-eaters, who must capture their prey and tear it apart as it struggles to escape.  We instead employ professionals to breed our prey in captivity and prepare their bodies for us behind a veil of propriety, so that our sensibilities are spared the recognition that we too are predators, red in tooth if not in claw…The reality behind the veil is, however, far worse than that in the natural world.  Our factory farms, which supply most of the meat and eggs consumed in developed societies, inflict a lifetime of misery and torment on our prey, in contrast to the relatively brief agonies endured by the victims of predators in the wild.  From the moral perspective, there is nothing that can plausibly be said in defense of this practice.  To be entitled to regard ourselves as civilized, we must, like Isaiah’s morally reformed lion, eat straw like the ox, or at least the moral equivalent of straw.”

The focus here is on the immorality of killing and consuming other conscious, feeling creatures. Christian viewpoints are represented (especially Isaiah), presented in historical context.

chickpeas and red chard in the style of the tunisian sahel (morshan)

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Recipe from: Mediterranean Cooking, Revised Edition, Copyright ©1994 by Paula Wolfert
Makes 4 servings
3/4 pound Swiss chard leaves, stemmed, rinsed and torn into large pieces
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 small dried red chile
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup cooked chickpeas with 3/4 cup cooking liquid
1 lemon, cut in wedges, optional
1. In pot steam, parboil or microwave chard leaves until tender, about 5 minutes.

2. Set leaves in colander to drain.

3. Squeeze out excess moisture and shred coarsely.

4. Crush garlic in mortar with salt, coriander and chile until thick, crumbly paste forms.

5. Heat olive oil in 10-inch skillet and saute onion until pale-golden.

6. Add garlic paste and tomato paste and stir into oil until sizzling.

7. Add chard, cooked chickpeas and cooking liquid and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

8. Remove from heat and let stand until ready to serve. (Contents of skillet should be very moist but not soupy. For looser texture, stir in more chick pea cooking liquid.)

9. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold with lemon wedges.

Note: Broccoli rabe, dandelion leaves, mustard greens, kale or turnip tops may be substituted for Swiss chard. I made this recipe with red chard and it was great, especially at room temperature with lemon juice/a little light vinegar/hot sauce, with warm pita wedges.