Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Food of the Month Club - March

Here are my notes for this month at Trinity.

In addition, I'm challening the congregation to donate 40 bottles of oil (pints or larger) - a much asked for and rarely available item at the food pantry. 

The Food of the Month for March is

Cooking Oil

Many of the FISH food pantry’s clients ask for it, but it’s rarely donated and unavailable for inexpensive purchase from the Redwood Empire Food Bank. So usually the answer to requests is “Sorry.”

For the billion or more food insecure people in the world, two of the staples we take for granted and often have too much of, sugar and oil, are luxuries. Prices for oil will continue to rise as more of the crops from which it is sourced are diverted to bio-fuels, and more land is devoted to raising bio-fuel and animal feed crops.

Here are some FAQs about purchasing oils.
Are there local choices?
Local oils - olive, actually - are usually too expensive for most of our budgets. (But a wonderful treat when used to dress salads or other vegetables.)

Which oils are from genetically engineered crops? Any corn, soy or canola oil which is not labeled organic, or any “vegetable” oil, which may also contain cottonseed oil, will be from GM crops. Words like “natural” and “real” on labels are meaningless.
Whole Foods’ 365 store brand, Safeway O-organics, and Trader Joe’s own label are all good choices of value for money. Google the “True Foods Shopper’s Guide” if you want more information on GMO free products.

What about other environmental concerns? Avoid palm oil unless it’s certified organic. Since regulations regarding trans fats went into effect, palm oil, which is solid at room temperature without hydrogenation, has been used more and more, resulting in the destruction of tropical forest habitat. Orangutans and many other species which are less conspicuous are endangered because of this trend.

What are the best choices for health? Advice on which fats to choose seems like the shifting sands. One thing that’s been consistent for some decades is the recommendation to choose cooking oils high in mono-unsaturated fats. Common ones are sunflower, safflower, peanut and olive. Did you know that coconut and palm oils are higher in saturated fat than butter?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Updating the list of web sites

which sorely needed it.

I've added the site for the California Biosafety Alliance.  They are hosting an international conference on "Justice Begins with Seeds" on May 19 and 20, and promoting Food Sovereignty Week May 14-20.

I deleted the broken links, and pulled the links that include searches for local food - Local Harvest and the Meatrix - up to the top.   I learned about two more at the friends of agriculture happy hour on Friday and will be adding them.

In cruising through the links I realized a number of them are keeping up with Farm Bill 2012 developments.   I plan to pull these out and create a separate box for Farm Bill links soon.

And I pulled the site for the Oakland Institute up toward the top of the list since it remains the best source of info on the land grabs in Africa.   OI called my attention to this recent BBC broadcast on the land grab issue:

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I'm not doing a food discipline for Lent this year.   Frankly, I can't figure out quite where to go from here, especially in the wake of having some restrictions in both quantity and variety imposed by my health since June of 2011.

But it's nice to see that others are thinking about eating less and eating more simply.
Here's a blog to follow:
It's been years since I've seen Fran, but I'm sure she will have some interesting reflections.

Meanwhile, after a couple of months of missing meetings, I'm back on track with our Sonoma County Food System Alliance - working on the policy committee, and volunteering for the communication committee.   I feel that I increasingly carry the justice-seeking portfolio - but I'm trying with some success to temper my opinions with humor so I don't become insufferable.

I'm also pondering how to continue gently challenging and stretching my congregation on food issues.

Perhaps smiling and pondering are as significant as fasting?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Where have I been?

I've been reading Chasing Chiles: hot spots along the pepper trail and encountered the phrase "reconciliation ecology."

How have I missed this?

Surely this is the kind of ecology practiced by thoughtful gardeners and farmers of the diversified variety for a long time.

And, of course, I like the theological and ethical implications. Our Prayer Book Catechism says the call to all baptized people is to carry on Christ's reconciling work in the world. Surely this is not limited to reconciliation among human beings, but between humans and the rest of creation as well.

Here's a web site with some basic information and links:

Occupy Monsanto

The mainstream media's angle on GMO issues is reflected in this NY Times article

It's really a pretty good article, attempting to cover both the consumer and the farmer angle.
And mentioning Gates as a pro-GMO player.

I would question one bit of science here - everything with DNA is related to everything else - the question is, how closely is it related? and who profits from the transgenic modification? If genetic engineering simply accelerates conventional hybridization - lets say finding some useful genes in a plant from the same family - and does it at no profit to benefit increasing drought somewhere in the 2/3 world - well, then, I might see a reason for it. But that is not what is happening...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Food of the Month Club continues

I've just finished developing the Food of the Month materials for my congregation. We had lots of healthful cereals and other donations in January - the basket at the offertory was full!

Here's the text of my bulletin for February:

The Food of the Month for February is boxed macaroni and cheese.

Sometimes, especially in our cool, damp, and sometimes wringing wet winters, we need comfort foods. And everybody loves macaroni and cheese, or at least it seems they do.

For me, macaroni and cheese will always be elbow macaroni with homemade white sauce loaded with New England sharp white cheddar, baked in the square Pyrex dish - that is, the macaroni and cheese my mother made. I was in my late twenties before I had the stuff in the blue box, which my then boyfriend referred to as Kraft Dinner. Good thing - as I had to think of it as a different food.

Now there are many kinds of boxed pasta dishes. My great niece survived a decade of her childhood on Annie’s Shells and White Cheddar, and she turned out smart, healthy and beautiful, so it can't be all bad. After doing some market research, I conclude that the way to go is to buy the product with the shortest list of unpronounceable ingredients, weighing this against price. At my market, the Annie's was cheaper than Kraft organic. We always need to consider the health of those who receive our food donations, and the health of our planet, even with comfort foods for the hungry.

One of the great things about macaroni and cheese is that it is widely variable, and allows for various cheeses and all kinds of additions, especially vegetables. The cover of the February-March issue of Fine Cooking magazine announced 100+ variations - though if you tried every possible permutation, given pasta shapes, cheeses, spices and additions, it would be more like 100,000+. Not everyone would be equally tasty, of course - which must be why food editors appear to have such poor math skills.

I’m experimenting with lightening home made macaroni and cheese. I’ve tested Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook recipe embracing cauliflower, whole grain pasta, and lots less cheese. It's a different dish, too, but very good. Next up is using winter squash or sweet potato to develop the thick creaminess while lowering fat content in the sauce.