July 5th

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It’s Saturday, July 5th and for some reason I feel compelled to see the garden at the school. I usually take a (sometime) leisurely 2-mile walk with my pet, Joe Dawg, but feeling I guess a little fleet of foot and bored with the same old walking routine, I set out for Nolan Elementary-Middle School. Part of my walk is very familiar still as it is the path that I used to walk, morning and evening, on my way to accumulating 10 miles a day. Joe made this trip with me one time last year, so it was like his first time all over again. We stopped at nearly every telephone pole, flower bed, shrub and weed on the way there. Fortunately, no other dogs were out at the time we were walking, so there were no conflicts encouraged by Joe Dawg’s aggressiveness.

Arriving at the school, with the sun peeking over the tree tops, the garden kind of had the look of the opening scenes from the movie Camelot…it was so lush looking, so green, so rich and deeply hued. I was a good 50 yards away and like a movie camera my gaze fell on all of the beds in order from left to right. Even at that distance I could see activity in each bed. As I neared I could see a watermelon vine was trailing along the top of one bed. There was kale that we had already started to harvest. The strawberries were doing well, but unfortunately, we didn’t get every ground cherry that dropped from the stalk last year. The kids liked them, but I don’t think Ms. Bonnie (Bonnie Odom-Brown/B.E. Culturally Exposed) will be too happy to see them. The potato bed, which is the bed that most captures your attention from afar, is magnificent. It is full of leaves and flowers that let us know that there is a lot going on underground. A close visual second, right now, are the squash plants. They dominate the bed and are bearing fruit that are ready to be picked. In total we are growing a very wide variety of plants.

The Nolan Elementary-Middle School 2014 “Planting the Seeds” garden includes…
• Green Cabbage
• Red Cabbage
• Collard Greens
• Mustard Greens
• GRP Greens Mix
• Broccoli
• Dinosaur Kale
• Curly Kale
• Garlic (3 varieties)
• Onions (2 varieties)
• Potatoes (3 varieties…Red, White and Yellow)
• Sweet Potatoes
• Green Beans
• Yellow Wax Beans
• Sugar Snap Peas
• Watermelon
• Strawberries
• Eggplant
• Tomatoes (8 varieties)
• Romaine Lettuce
• Salad Bowl Lettuce
• GRP Lettuce Mix (Mesclun)
• Spinach
• Beets
• Radishes
• Carrots
• Ground Cherries
• Green Peppers
• Yellow Sweet Peppers
• Red Sweet Peppers
• Hot Banana Peppers
• Habenero` Peppers
• Jalapeno Peppers
• Rosemary
• Parsley
• Basil
• Sunflowers (2 varieties)
• Wildflower Mix
That’s a total of 40 vegetables (includes squash and zucchini) and flowering plants in 13 beds that students from the 3rd grade up to the 8th grade are managing. If everything grows as planned it will be a wonderful year. We do have to thank our friends at Keep Growing Detroit for the majority of the seeds and plants.

One thing that this year’s garden has had going for it has been the weather. It has been perfect since the month of May. We’ve had plenty of sunshine and just enough rain for everything to grow well. The moderate weather has been a boon to us as so far as we have had neither extreme heat nor continuous days of rain.

We have also had great support from our annual sponsors, Maura Ryan-Kaiser of Snelling Staffing Services and Mark Guimond from Michigan First Credit Union. Snelling employees are out there every week lending their assistance, doing whatever is needed. They are great role models for the kids.

So this is where we are as of the July 4th weekend. We are not growing corn (knee high by the fourth of July) but many of our sunflower plants are about 18 inches. Everything is green in our world and it’s fabulous!

Evening Pictures (I had to come back without the dawg)
Click on each picture to enlarge.

 

Camelot?

Camelot?

The closer we get, the better it will look!

The closer we get, the better it will look!

Watermelon and Zuchinni

Watermelon and Zucchini

Beets, Tomatoes and Spinach

Beets, Tomatoes and Spinach

Spinach and Tomatoes

Spinach and Tomatoes

Ground Cherries and Strawberries

Ground Cherries and Strawberries

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Potatoes

Potatoes

Green and Red Cabbage

Green and Red Cabbage

Broccoli

Broccoli and Collard Greens

Big Lot at ground level

Big Lot at ground level

Potatoes...another look!

Potatoes…another look!

Squash

Squash

 

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Black History Month “They Call Me Mister Tibbs”

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As some of you may know, as a young lad, my world was very small and insulated…“Neverland”.  There was so much  happening right around me, but as a child, rightfully so, I was so unaware.  I still think that’s a good thing.  A child should be able to be to look at the world…his or her world, through their own eyes and also through the filtered eyes of their parents.  So you can imagine how big my eyes grew when I saw the movie “Blackboard Jungle” which was shown on TV one special Friday night.

What was so special about this Friday was that a few weeks prior to its showing, two events drew the attention of the media and so-called concerns of citizens in Detroit.  One event happened at my junior high school, Nolan, and the second event took place exactly one week later at the neighborhood high school, Pershing.

The Nolan event was a fight where one student had a knife.  It was a table knife that he had stolen from the school cafeteria.  I was right there when the knife was pulled and at the same time cops pulled up.  We ran like the proverbial roaches from light in all directions.  It was a fight between two black boys…you know the situation, friends for life, before and after.  The incident, so you know, was small potatoes in the hood but it became a big deal even in a city as big as Detroit was then…because of the knife.

The fight at Pershing again was between two black kids and this time it was a switchblade, as I recall.  The “establishment” went absolutely crazy!!!  There was a media explosion…editorials, exposé’s, re-hashes of past times and there were meetings and panels trying to figure out what had suddenly gone wrong with our kids and society.

And that is why on that special night the local television station showed the movie.  It was supposed to show what it is like in classrooms across America.  Blackboard Jungle wasn’t the only cautionary tale about high school life.  But it had one thing that most of the “ripped from the headlines” movies didn’t have…a great cast.  It featured Glenn Ford (Teacher) a young Vic Morrow (Bad Kid), Ann Francis (Wife), Richard Kiley (Music Teacher), Jamie Farr (Kid) and of course…Sydney Poitier!  It also featured the song that “marked the rock and roll revolution”, Bill Haley and His Comets “Rock Around the Clock”.  It was Number One on Billboard for 8 weeks, not bad for a boy from Highland Park, MI.

The first time I saw this movie I was still a child, eleven years old, with my insulated brain.  My world wasn’t like this and as enlightening as it was on a social level it was also kind of scary.  It felt so good that Detroit as I knew it, was not like the schools portrayed in this movie or any other.

So here I was watching a movie where blacks were in an integrated environment and were more than a backdrop.  I wasn’t crazy about the stereotype of blacks singing gospel songs at the drop of the hat, but he was an intelligent young man that in more ways than one I could relate to.

After that I paid more attention to the actor, Sydney Poitier.  I couldn’t help but notice that his roles and movies were pretty reflective of what was happening at the time.  Hollywood had a foil that they could use as an embraceable voice to society and he was good, make that very good at doing just that.  Most of his major roles were exercises on civil rights.  And he had many firsts in roles, billings and awards. Here’s a short list of his socially trailblazing movies…

·        Blackboard Jungle 1955

·        Edge of the City 1957

·        The Defiant Ones (with Tony Curtis) 1958

·        All the Young Men 1960

·        A Raisin In the Sun 1961

·        Pressure Point (with Bobby Darin) 1962

·        Lilies of the Field (Best Actor Oscar) 1963

·        A Patch of Blue 1965

·        To Sir With Love 1967

·        In the Heat of the Night 1967

·        Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? 1967

Sydney was the consummate actor and he could stand his ground with any actor and this list of movies notwithstanding, his range as an actor was incredible.  I am sure some roles were his by default, especially since he, as most actors of his generation, worked constantly.

So, in a retro-fitted way Sydney Poitier became that role model that a lot of people, including myself and probably a few people in my immediate family bought in to.  “Blackboard Jungle” did demonstrate in a raw kind of way that an “intelligent, savvy, street-wise, mentally strong black man, whether or not he was always socially correct”, could deal with white society (the establishment) at any level.  Many a time you would hear parents/adults admonish a black child or young adult saying “you should be like that a… SIT-NEE POE-TEE-AIR”.  That stopped around the time he married Johanna Shimkus, of course.

His accurate portrayals, of young black men at different emotional stages, like the role as Walter Lee Younger, in the film “A Raisin in the Sun” were impressive!  Walter Lee, who really wanted to be in charge of his own destiny, was hustled out of his money by actor Roy Glenn and so went his dream of getting out of the ghetto.  This film is loaded with great actors too.  Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil, Diana Sands and Lou Gossett, Jr., were the featured performers.  I was 11 also when this movie came out and because it wasn’t “Godzilla or War of the Worlds”, I missed it.  But I saw this and another flick “Nothing Like a Man” starring Ivan Dixon, 3 times each in high school…Pershing High, knife fight, Pershing High.

I was really seeing more of what the world was really like through his movies.  Some fit right in with my little insulated world, like “A Patch of Blue”, the interracial love story, for one.  With the diversity surrounding us, just on the three blocks we lived on, we had a unique, yet special view of the world. Not special like we were the only ones to have such an existence, but like if we could have it why couldn’t everybody else live in harmony like we did.

The world changed as I got more mobile and uniquely so did Sydney’s roles.  First there was “To Sir With Love!”  This was a movie I totally resisted seeing at first.  I thought it was wimpy.  I knew the theme “black man raises the level of life and expectations of working-class kids and families”…another savior film.  This was not a movie that could have been distributed everywhere in the states so it was a little daring.

If you are old enough to remember the fashion and look of the times, Mary Quant cosmetics, etc., then you know how the look in film transferred to the kids walking the streets between Woodward and Van Dyke Streets between 7 and 8 Mile Rds.

My friend, Tessie Green, dragged me to see it one snowy Saturday afternoon. It was playing at the Palms Theatre.  The place was packed…there was such a mix of young and old, white and black, men and mostly women theatergoers.  It was good…admittedly; it was a great story and very well acted by all.  With just the right amount of sentiment and racial/social references.  What a success for the middle-class!

I remember when my buddy, future brother-in-law, Rickey and I went to see “In the Heat of the Night”.  Even in “Neverland”, it was hard not to know what was going on across the south and ghettos everywhere.  You saw “Burn Baby Burn” scrawled or posted everywhere as cities were burning down.  Racial tensions were high and here comes a movie that hangs it all out there in living color.

The opening scenes of the movie show us a man sitting at a lonely train station unaware that his life was going to change in a blink of an eye.  A black man, all alone, when a murder happens?  This is not a good thing, even if he wasn’t black, so this sets the stage for a journey that two men take as they learn about race relations, dignity and pride, two words that you always think about when you think of Sydney Poitier.

It was a fascinating movie, with great performances by Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, William Schallert and the great Beah Richards.  It had a lot of plot twists and devices that showed the good and bad of the old south.  Bad traditions and social stereotypes were displayed to the naked eye.  The movie manifested everything I had feared about the south.  Nobody I knew at this time was singing, “Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton”.

In this movie, a man is briefly stripped and denied everything he stands for.  The words I had heard many times before, “I don’t know why you try so hard…you’re still a nigga to dem,” were marching through my mind.  As it is in most movies the good guy does win out, but you had some doubt as to how until Sydney’s Virgil exclaimed, “They Call Me Mister Tibbs!”  No more “boy” stuff as many a black man has heard and not just in the south.  Women had R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  Men now had D-I-G-N-I-T-Y!

Powerful words, said at the right time.  That single line has been recognized by the American Film Institute also.  It is ranked #16 on the institute’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes, a list of top film quotes.  And an untold amount of black mens backbones got a little firmer and straighter and they sought to take back or hold onto the two things that they were born with.

I never saw “Guess Who’s Coming Over for Dinner”.  That was too much like life in Neverland.  Only, we had breakfast and lunch thrown in there for good measure.  Integrated families, neighborhoods and schools were part of the existence.  Socially, I thought I was already past it.  But what was good theatre of polite chatter in a sophisticated world, totally different words and attitudes were being used and displayed in the real world.  I was personally surprised when I found this out. My naiveté was exposed once again and though they were merely speed bumps on the road of life, lessons that needed to be learned were learned.  Nonetheless, social consciousness was again raised and attitudes were again exposed, by a Sydney Poitier movie where people had to ask themselves “what if”?

Subsequent to the start of this project, I discussed its status with my brother Isaac and he had a few more suggestions, like

  • No Way Out 1950
  • The Edge of the City 1957
  • For the Love of Ivy 1968
  • A Warm December (directed by S. P.) 1974

I didn’t initially remember “No Way Out”, but after hearing his re-telling of the movie outline, I definitely remember it now.

So that’s my story for Black History Month.  I hope that it as enhanced your appreciation for a noteworthy black artist…a black artistic historical figure, whose impact on society and my life via his movies/roles is undeniable.  Ladies and Gentlemen…SIT-NEE POE-TEE-AIR!

A Recollection: The Gettysburg Address

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln (Photo credit: casually cruel)

This has been an unusual month for me.  For the first time in a long time I’ve reflected on the Gettysburg Address.  You know, there used to be a time where you were basically inundated with stories, reflections, memoirs, about significant dates and times in the media, school, church and other institutions about significant moments in history.  Unlike today, to use a word, our holidays and historical events were institutionalized and were generally celebrated the same way, all of the time.  I didn’t know it as a kid, in a way, we were taught to perpetuate a system…of so-called traditional holidays and events that sustained a social order.

Now, I don’t usually spend a lot of time thinking about stuff like this, but I was watching Channel 56, Detroit’s PBS station, airing of a documentary about the Declaration of Independence.  Watching the show, I discovered a lot of things about the purpose of the speech, its importance, the expectations and the actual reaction that I didn’t know.  It was all pretty dramatic in the PBS way and extremely captivating.  It illuminated the varied back stories of many of the players of that time.  One key part of history that I previously didn’t know was the importance of the relationship President Lincoln had with his butler, a black man.  Even though he was thought to be a free man, he was still subjected to the prejudice and racism of those times.  His proximity to the president did not make it any easier for him and there were times when Lincoln had to fight to have him at hand.  And this is where I started “reflecting” I went back to a time when I was still in elementary school and my older brother, Isaac came in from his school with the homework assignment to memorize and recite the Gettysburg Address.

Now we were the type of kids that shared homework with each other.  We would all sit around the dining room table, most of the time with our heads down closely to our papers, pencils scratching on paper…you know the drill…nowadays it would be called “nerdville”, but back then it was called being A-students.  Very Eisenhowerish!  Anyway, Isaac came home with his assignment and as I recall we all stopped working to listen to Isaac work on the piece.  Isaac was a pretty good orator and for the longest time, he was the only one in the family that aggressively pursued the limelight.  “Four score and seven years ago…” we heard the starts and stops as he was learning it.

He was doing all right too, improving every step of the way, that is, until our father woke up!  My father was a very intelligent man, but sometimes when he would try to help, he could set you back for days, if not months or years.  So when daddy awakened, we all scattered and basically Isaac was left by his lonesome to deal with him.  I can’t remember everything, but for some reason I remember laughing a lot!  My father, who was a smart man when he was sober, always thought he was smarter when he was drunk.  And as long as you were not the object of his attention, you were allowed to laugh…secretly.  You couldn’t get too carried away with your glee because tomorrow it could be your turn with the beast.

Because of this little recollection, I gave Isaac a call and we discussed this event and the speech.  Not surprisingly, he remembers the rehearsals, the speech and the importance of the address.  Why don’t we acknowledge the speech in the same universal way today?  I have another question for Isaac also.  Since Nolan at the time was a pre-dominantly white school, why does he think he was picked to recite the speech?

IsaacIsaac’s Response

Arthur, yes I do remember having to recite the speech, and the drama that went into doing it.  I do not remember any discussion about how or why I was chosen.  On reflection it seems appropriate given the changes going on in our society.  When I enrolled at Nolan Jr. High, the school was about 3% African-American so to demonstrate the significance of the Address perhaps I was the default choice.  I remember struggling to remember the words.  The 267 words of the address seemed like thousands, and all of you were so supportive, listening time and time again, as I recited over and over, the words President Lincoln spoke.  And yes there was Daddy “offering” his help.  He did offer me some advice that worked, though.  He showed me how I could remember the address by singing it instead of reciting it, and yes, it really did help.

The biggest problem wasn’t just reciting the address, it was understanding “it’s” meaning.  To understand the address I had to try and understand the meaning of the Civil War.  Was this a war about freedom?  The right to establish individual and societal freedoms.

Was this a war about equality?  The acknowledgement that African-Americans were whole people, not the 3/5th of a person, that they had been designated.

Was this a war about slavery?  The right of all people to live free from subjugation by other peoples.  There was very little said, or discussed, when it came to the subject of slavery.  It was as though, with all the talk of American exceptualism, no one wanted to talk of, or teach about, America’s shame.  (I wonder if that would have been considered playing the race-card?)

So with not having an understanding of the war, and not having heard President Lincoln’s original address, I had to establish my own points of emphasis in delivering the speech.  I chose the opening line, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and this from the close, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I thought that summarized the speech very well, and for an 11 year old, I was quite proud, but on reflection I see I may have missed the point, perhaps altogether.  Yes the beginning and the ending are important, but I believe, the real significance is here, “…but, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here…”

And though the address was given in commemoration of the fallen Union soldiers, it must be noted that the casualties were almost equally divided between two camps.  So many people, White people, Black People, Native Americans and others sacrificed so much.  At Gettysburg alone more than 7,800 people lost their lives, almost 40,000 were wounded, captured or missing.

Compare those numbers with this, from the start of the war in Afghanistan in October, 2001 until August of 2008 the “wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost 4,683 American lives and resulted in 30,490 wounded.  That’s over a period of nearly 8 years.

The Battle of Gettysburg lasted just 3 days, July 1 to the 3rd, 1863.

But more than a remembrance of what had occurred there, President Lincoln used his address to remind America of what we were fighting for:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…”

11 year old Isaac didn’t really have a grasp of the significance of what he was reciting then, but I have a better understanding of the Address now.  I look around and see the same battles, for the same reasons, being fought today and it saddens me.  But the fact that we are still fighting, that we haven’t given up or given in, lifts my spirits and gives me hope.  Hope, “—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”

Here is the complete Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

That Little Boy Arthur David…Now He was A Biscuit Eater!

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This is supposed to be an article that focuses on healthy eating and bread spreads, but first a little perspective.  Going back to my childhood, my family and I, but especially me, ate a lot of bread and any variety of it.  We ate biscuits, rolls, bread pudding, sandwiches, and just bread by itself.  I loved bread then and though I have personal restrictions in place, I love bread now.  I get a warm feeling, probably originating from my stomach, just thinking about it and the many ways I consumed bread.  If I was outside playing, it was easy to run into the house and grab a slice of bread and head back out.  I would pack my jaw with the stuff (Wonder Bread was perfect for this) and like some sort of rodent nurse off of it until it was gone and then I would get another slice.  Then there were the peanut butter and Alaga syrup sandwiches.  Alaga is a cane sugar syrup, and it is darker and thicker than most syrups.  I think it is a little sweeter too.  It, the sandwich, tastes just like those “Maryjane” candies.  Sticky and sweet…yum.  Looking back, if there is one thing that put me on the track of being a diabetic, it was probably my love for bread and whatever I could put on it, which was almost always sweet and at portions that would probably kill me now.

Yes, I was a real bad bread lover.  My brothers and I would have eating contests, like who could eat the most biscuits, rolls, pancakes (it’s not politically correct to say but we totally embraced the “Sambo” approach to eating pancakes) and syrup sandwiches or sopping syrup off of a plate that had margarine added to it.  Boy if only I knew then what I know now.

So now I am a diabetic and my situation has made me more sensitive and smarter about what I consume and when I consume it.  Now I only have 1 to 3 slices of bread a day and some days not even that.  My choice of spread is still peanut butter but a small jar of preserves can last me two months easy.  So what about the stuff we put on our bread, bagel or muffin?  What’s good for you and what’s not so good?  Thanks to the July/August of Diabetes Management magazine, I can tell you.  Knowing more about the nutritional content of bread spreads and the right portion size may help you to prevent becoming a diabetic or help you in other ways, especially in losing weight.  It is okay to use these products in small amounts, but let’s not do what I did as a child.  Did it hurt, maybe not…but it certainly didn’t help either.

All of the bread spreads discussed here contribute calories in the form of fat, sugar, or both—but some are better choices than others.  I hope that you can use this as a guide to help you to enjoy what you are eating while avoiding consuming too much saturated fat, trans fat, and sugar.

Butter

Basic Info:

  • Butter must be at least 80% milk fat by weight
  • One tablespoon of butter contains 100 calories, 11 grams of fat (of which 7 grams are saturated fat and about ½ a gram is trans fat), and 30 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol.
  • Whipped butter has fewer calories and less fat than regular butter.  It has air whipped in during processing.
  • One tablespoons of whipped butter contains about 70 calories, 8 grams of fat (5 of them saturated fat) and 20 mg of cholesterol.
  • Light butter spread has even fewer calories and less fat than whipped butter.  Some of the fat is replaced with water or gelatin.
  • One tablespoon of light butter spread has about 60 calories, 7 grams of fat (2 of them saturated), and 7 mg of cholesterol.

American Diabetes Association Recommendation:

  • Calories from fat should make up no more than 20% to 35% of the total calories you consume.
  • In addition, 7% of your total calories come from saturated fat, and that you avoid trans fat whenever possible.
  • A person that consumes 1,500 calories per day, this works out to about 33 to 58 total grams of fat, with no more than 12 grams of saturated fat.
  • The ADA recommends a maximum daily cholesterol intake of 200 mg.

The reason behind these recommendations is that diets high in saturated fat and trans fat are believed to increase your risk of heart disease by raising blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol, which promotes atherosclerosis (hardening and clogging of the arteries).  A high intake of dietary cholesterol can also raise blood LDL cholesterol levels.

Consumers who want the taste of butter but less saturated fat may want to try products that blend butter with oil (usually canola, olive, soybean, and/or flaxseed oil).  These products still have around 100 calories per tablespoon but only 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.  Oil-blended butters also come in light varieties, which decrease the calorie content to about 50 calories per tablespoon and the saturated fat to around 2 grams.

Brand Best Buy (serving 1 tbs.)

Challenge Spreadable Butter (Salted/Unsalted Whipped Butter): 70 calories; 7 grams of fat; 70 fat calories; 5 grams of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Land O’Lakes Spreadable Butter (Salted Whipped Light Butter): 45 calories; 5 grams of fat; 45 fat calories; 3 grams of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Margarine

Basic Info:

  • Margarine is made from a single oil or a blend of oils and must contain at least 80% oil.  (The other 20% is mostly water or nonfat milk).
  • Margarine is most commonly made from soybean, corn, safflower, canola, cottonseed, and sunflower oils, and some products also contain olive or flaxseed oils.
  • It is available solid, in sticks; soft, in tubs; even softer, in squeeze bottles; and liquid, in sprays.
  • Regular margarine contains approximately 100 calories and 11 grams of fat, of which 2 grams are saturated, per tablespoon.
  • Because margarine is made primarily from vegetable oil, it is cholesterol freeCholesterol only occurs in foods of animal origin.
  • Most of the fat in margarine is monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.  These “fats” are known as “good” fats because they are good for your heart, your blood cholesterol levels and your overall health.
  • One type of polyunsaturated, Omega-3 fatty acids, may be especially beneficial to your heart by protecting against irregular heartbeats and lowering the risk of heart attacks.  Fish oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, is added to some margarine products.

Does this mean I should switch back to margarine?

American Diabetes Association recommends…

That as a consumer you need to be careful and make sure you read the labeling of any margarine product.  Some margarine products contain trans fat, which is created during food processing when liquid oils are solidified by adding hydrogen.  (Trans fat also occurs naturally in small amounts in animal foods, which why butter contains some trans fat.)  If the words “partially hydrogenated” appear in the ingredients list on a margarine package, the product contains trans fat.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows food manufacturers to list 0 grams of trans fat in the Nutrition Facts panel if the food has less than half a gram per serving.  If you eat more than one serving, though, it can add up.

  • Margarine spreads are lower in fat than regular margarine because more water is added.  Most spreads contain about 70 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 1-2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
  • Light margarine spreads are 50% lower in calories and fat than regular margarine.

All margarines (and most butter spreads) are supplemented with vitamin A, often in the form of beta-carotene.  Some products are fortified with other vitamins and minerals.  Margarines may also contain plant sterols, which lower LDL cholesterol without lowering HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good”) cholesterol.

Brand Best Buy (serving 1 tbs.)

Blue Bonnet (Soft Spread): 40 calories; 4 grams of fat; 40 fat calories; 1 gm. saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Country Crock Spreadable Margarine (Calcium Plus Vitamin D Fortified): 50 calories; 5 grams of fat; 50 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Fleischmann’s Original Spread (Olive Oil): 60 calories; 6 grams of fat; 60 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (Calcium & Vitamin D or Light)45 calories; 5 grams of fat; 45 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Parkay Spreadable Margarine (Light): 45 calories; 5 grams of fat; 45 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Smart Balance Spreadable Margarine (Light Omega-3 Buttery Spread): 50 calories; 5 grams of fat; 50 fat calories; 1 gram of saturated fat; 0 trans fat

Cream Cheese

Basic Info:

  • Cream cheese is an unaged cheese made from cow’s milk.  Emulsifiers are used to make cream cheese firm.  The USDA requires regular cream cheese to contain at least 33% fat and no more than 55% water.
  • Cream cheese is high in calories, fat and saturated fat.
  • Two tablespoons of regular cream cheese contain 90 calories, 9 grams of fat (of which 5 grams are saturated fat), 120 milligrams of cholesterol, and 2 grams of carbohydrate.

Spreadable cream cheese varieties include regular, whipped, light, one-third less fat, and fat free.

  • Regular spreadable cream cheese contains 80 calories and 7 grams of fat (of which 4 ½ grams are saturated) per two-tablespoon serving.
  • Whipped, light, and one-third less fat cream cheeses contain about 60-70 calories and 5-6 grams of fat (including 3 grams of saturated fat) per two-tablespoons.
  • Fat-free cream cheese contains 30-40 calories per two-tablespoon serving.
  • Fruit-flavored cream cheeses contain more carbohydrate (from added sugar) than the unflavored cream cheese: about 6 grams in two tablespoons.
  • Flavored varieties, such as Kraft Philadelphia Snack Delights, which contain flavorings such as milk chocolate, dark chocolate, cinnamon, and caramel, can contain as much as 110 calories, 7 grams of fat (of which 4 grams are saturated), and 12 grams of carbohydrate in two tablespoons.

Brand Best Buy (serving 2 tbs.)

Philadelphia Fat Free: 30 calories

Philadelphia Fat Free (Strawberry): 40 calories

Philadelphia 1/3 Less Fat (Strawberry): 70 calories; 4 grams of fat; 40 fat calories; 2 trans fat

Jams, Jelly and Honey

Basic Info:

Jam, jelly, fruit preserves, fruit butter, and honey are high in sugar and therefore high in calories and carbohydrates.

1st the Differences

  1. Jam is made from the pulp and juice of fruits and has a semi-gelled texture.
  2. Apricots, berries, plums and peaches are the most common fruits used to make jam.
  3. Jelly is made from just the juice and is clear and firm.
  4. Preserves are made from whole berries or uniform pieces of larger fruits, such as peaches and pears.
  5. Fruit butters are made from fruit that is cooked until softened, then processed into a smooth consistency.  Peach, apple, pear, plum, and pumpkin are common fruit butter flavors, and spices such as cinnamon or cardamom are sometimes added.

Jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit butters taste sweet due to their fruit content, but many also contain added sweeteners.  Always check for sources of added sugars on the ingredients list.  Common nutritive (calorie-containing) sweeteners found in jam and jellies include corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is a combination of fructose and dextrose.

Some products are sweetened with concentrated fruit syrup or fruit juice.  However, those products, often labeled “100% fruit.” May be no lower in sugar and carbohydrate than products sweetened with sugar or corn syrup.  Whatever the sweetener source, it’s important to check the Nutrition Facts panel on the label to know the carbohydrate content.

Honey is slightly higher in calories and carbohydrate than most jams and jellies.  It contains 60 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrate per tablespoon.

Some food manufacturers make jams and jellies with a lower sugar and carbohydrate content.  Being a diabetic means that this is what I spend my money on.  Unfortunately most stores do not feature a wide variety of diabetic or sugar-free jams, jellies or preserves.  Depending on their ingredients and calorie counts, these products may be labeled “low calorie,” “no sugar added,” “low sugar,” “light,” “sugar free,” or “reduced sugar.”  In place of sugar or corn syrup, they may be sweetened with fructose, sugar alcohols, low calorie sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose, or a combination of low-calorie sweeteners and sugar alcohols.

What do you know about sugar alcohols?  I didn’t know much about them until after I became diabetic and I was encouraged to read the nutrition labels on what I was buying/eating.  Sugar alcohols are a group of carbohydrates that have lower calorie counts than sugars and starches—about 2 calories per gram versus 4—because they are incompletely absorbed in the gut.  Sugar alcohols you may see on ingredients lists include lactitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysate.

Sugar alcohols are not considered sugars for labeling purposes but they are listed on the Nutrition Facts panel:  Check for grams of sugar alcohols under total carbohydrate.  Be aware that sugar alcohols have a laxative effect on some people—you may want to limit your intake.

Personally, I was told to avoid the “tol” group altogether.  Sugar free does not mean carbohydrate free and I need to watch my consumption of carbs too.

Brand Best Buy (serving 1 tbs.)

Fifty50 Fruit Spread (Strawberry): 5 calories

Knott’s Berry Farm (Light Preserves, Strawberry): 20 calories

Smucker’s (Low Sugar, Strawberry)25 calories

Smucker’s (Sugar Free, Concord Grape Jam w/Splenda): 10 calories

Smucker’s (Sugar Free, Strawberry Preserves w/Nutrasweet)10 calories

Welch’s (Spread, Natural Strawberry)30 calories

Welch’s (Reduced Sugar Spread, Strawberry Spread, Strawberry)20 calories

Welch’s (Grape Jam or Jelly)50 calories

Peanut Butter and Nut Spreads

PeaNUT…PEANUT BUTTER!  Oh my god this is it…this is my favorite or should I say it’s my favorite right now.  Before I was trying to mind my health, I was good for 3 or 4 peanut butter and strawberry/apricot/peach or cherry preserves sandwiches a day.  My sandwiches were always thick with the preserves oozing out of the right places around the edge of the bread.  The peanut butter was spread evenly across the bread (only white bread) and nowhere on the sandwich were the contents unevenly applied.  My sandwiches where perfect!  Thick!  HEAVY!!  A meal unto itself.  Sadly, I can’t do that anymore L.  My dietician says one slice of bread.  It’s not a sandwich unless it has two.  Who wins this debate?  Most of the time I do (she’s not around to stop me), but I try to exercise a little harder and longer for my indulgence.

But, enough about me, lets talk about peanut butter and nut spreads.  They are both made by grinding nuts into a paste.  They can be “all natural,” meaning they are made just with nuts, or they can contain added oils, sweeteners, and other ingredients.

Peanut butter must contain a minimum of 90% peanuts with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives.  Some brands add a stabilizer to keep the peanut butter fresh and the oil from separating; old-fashioned, or “natural,” peanut butter does not contain stabilizers, so the oil separates and must be stirred back in before using.  Don’t pour off the separated oil, or the peanut butter will become too thick to spread.

Basic Info:

·        Peanut butter is a good source of protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron, but it also derives around 70% of its calories from fat.

·        One serving of peanut butter is indicated on food labels as two tablespoons, and one serving contains 16-18 grams of fat, which includes 2-3 grams of saturated fat.

·        Because partially hydrogenated oils are frequently added to achieve a creamy texture, peanut butter may contain added trans fat.  Some, however, contain fully hydrogenated oils, which do not add trans fat.

·        Peanut butter spreads were developed as reduced-fat alternatives to peanut butter.  They contain 60% peanuts and provide 12 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.

Please be aware that when fat is reduced, sugar is often added, which may increase the carbohydrate content.  Since reduced-fat peanut butter is often not significantly lower in calories, and the carbohydrate content may double, there may not be significant health benefits to choosing it over regular peanut butter.

Hazelnut

Another nut-based product that is growing in popularity is hazelnut spread.  Hazelnut spread is a mixture of sugar, oil, hazelnuts, chocolate or cocoa, vanilla and milk.

  • The best-known hazelnut spread, Nutella, contains 200 calories, 12 grams of fat (including 4 grams of saturated fat), and 21 grams of carbohydrate in two tablespoons.
  • Nutella is higher in saturated fat than peanut butter because it contains palm oil, which is high in saturated fat, and its high amount of carbohydrate comes from added sugar.
  • The protein content of Nutella is only 2 grams per serving, compared to 7 grams per serving in peanut butter.
  • For a lower-sugar alternative try Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, which contains 180 calories, 15 grams of fat (of which 3 grams are saturated), and 12 grams of carbohydrate per two-tablespoon serving.

Best Brand Buy (serving 2 tbs.)

Fifty50 (Creamy or Crunchy)190 calories; 16 grams of fat; 140 fat calories; 2 grams of saturated fat

Jif (All varieties*): 190 calories; 15-16 grams of fat; 130-140 fat calories; 2-3 grams of saturated fat

*Jif Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread12 grams of fat; 100 fat calories; 2 grams of saturated fat

Laura Scudder’s All Natural Peanut Butter (Smooth Reduced Fat)190 calories; 12 grams of fat; 110 fat calories; 2 grams of saturated fat

Peter Pan (Creamy Whipped)150 calories; 12 grams of fat; 110 fat calories; 2 grams of saturated fat

Skippy (Natural Super Chunk, Reduced Fat Creamy/Super Chunk)180 calories; 12 grams of fat (Natural Super Chunk 17); 110 fat calories (Natural Super Chunk 150); 2 grams of saturated fat (Natural Super Chunk 3)

Source: Diabetes Self-Management (July/August 2013) – “Bread Spreads” by Lea Ann Holzmeister, RD, CDE

My Garden Life – July 2013

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My Garden Life  – July 2013

The Old Farmers Prayer (abridged)

 

Time just keeps moving on

Many years have come and gone

But I grow older without regret

My hopes are in what may come yet

 

On the farm I work each day

This is where I wish to stay

I watch the seeds, each season sprout

From the soil as the plants rise out

 

I study Nature and I learn

To know the earth and feel her turn

I love her dearly and all the seasons

For I have learned her secret reasons

 

All that will live is in the bosom of earth

She is the loving mother of all birth

But all that lives must pass away

And go back to her someday!

 By Malcolm Beck & Robert Tate

 

Those of you that are regular readers on this site know what a difficult year 2012 was for me at my home garden and for my associates that worked with me at Nolan Elementary-Middle School (Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners).  Between the vandalism at the school garden that literally forced us to start over [1] and the oppressing heat that definitely affected farm and garden production across the country (record heat waves in the Midwest), 2012 was nearly a devastating year.  But through all that, my friends and I, fellow gardeners and kids survived and conquered our enemies, natural and man-made, to have productive yields at both gardens.[2] .[3] . [4].  So as the year ended I was feeling pretty doggone good!

One of the last things we did with the kids was a garlic-seeding lesson coordinated by what was then the Garden Resource Program.  We all met at a community garden in Hamtramck to do some clean-up work, drink some fresh pressed apple cider and learn how to plant garlic.  I’ve got to tell you…that cider was damn good…it was cold and tart and natural and cold and sweet and cold…it was fabulous.  One small cup was all I dared to consume.  One small cup…the nectar was addicting!  One cup more would have led to a jug and then just hanging out at the cider press.  This stuff was that good.  Of course we couldn’t keep the kids away from it, but we did manage to get them to focus at what was at hand.  It was a fun day and even I learned something because I was out there.

So I got some garlic from my good BUDDY John Adams and planted it on Nov. 4th along the back row of the garden.  Starting from the West/South end heading north I planted: Music (14); Japanese (13); Kilarney Red (27) and Chesnok Red (30).  Also buried pumpkin shells to add material to the soil.  I was ecstatic because I had a lot of momentum at behind me and I was feeling good about 2013’s prospects.

Two reasons I was feeling good were John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy[5] and Law Academy.  They both became members in the Project Sweet Tomato program.  They both had so much too work with, greenhouse (!!!), a more than cooperative attitude and importantly, the correct vision.  The teacher/coordinator, the newly retired Ms. Gwen Bouler was excellent to work with and when you see her garden you will know why [6].  Another reason for heightened expectations was the development of a fine relationship with the staff of Nolan Elementary-Middle School.  Nolan is an EAA (Educational Achievement Authority) project school and in this new environment there has been considerable growth and improvement in literally all aspects of the program…from administrative staff to the CEO Ms. Angela Underwood (principal) and her Parent & Community Involvement Specialist, Ms. DeAndrea “DeDe” Rogers to the teachers and most importantly the kids and their grade scores.  Wonderful things are going on over there and I am excited about its future.

There’s another garden-related program in the city that initially I was pretty high on.  The Detroit School Garden Collaborative, when I first heard about it I was ecstatic.  Six-raised bed with all the fixins’ would be given to Detroit Public Schools that applied for them.  There would be new jobs for students (paid-internships) and for adult assistants.  The gardens would grow vegetables that would be used in the school’s cafeterias.  There would be classroom programs, horticultural and agricultural education, nutrition, and community outreach.  Unfortunately they have had some problems getting it off the ground.  It is going to be a work in progress, and for it to succeed it will need help from a lot of organizations.

As the New Year started, when I am typically checking out my gear and determining what I want to grow (my seed catalogs were coming in almost daily), I found myself not counting the days, but procrastinating about what I was going to do and when I was going to do it.  The first thing off of my “bucket list” was germinating seeds indoors.  My excuse was I didn’t want to take on the process of converting my dining into a plant laboratory.  So to be sure, I cleaned up the dining area, got it looking regal and all that, but slowly but surely it got loaded up with seed packets and garden paraphernalia anyway.

Then came the cold weather crops distribution courtesy of my friends and mentors of Keep Growing Detroit (a spin-off from the Garden Resource Program) in April.  I thought I was going to regain my mojo but “po’ pitiful” me couldn’t get any traction.  The weather didn’t exactly help either (at this date a token excuse), but I did get out and plant carrots and for the first time since I began gardening here, I will be a carrot eating fool!!!  Yum, Yum Eat ‘Em Up!  That sound you hear is not thunder…nor a earthquake…neither a sonic boom, no that’s me taking a bite from a carrot pulled fresh from the garden.  I planted several varieties like:

  • Nelson
  • Danvers
  • Royal Chantenay

They are all doing very well, the stems, a parsley-like green…tall and flowing.  But, as exciting as the carrots are, I’m still not quite there.

The month of May kind of shot by for me and before I knew it, warm-weather crop distribution, courtesy of Keep Growing Detroit, was upon me.  I was picking up for my home garden and the Nolan School garden too!  I got there and instead of being excited seeing old friends and making new ones, I meandered from distributor to distributor and gathered my plants and split.  It was no big deal…it didn’t register on me then but upon reflection I should known then that there was a different feeling this year.

I shared my thoughts/feelings with several of my gardening friends and surprisingly was told the same thing.  Almost everybody I know, that is into gardening, considers this year to be an off year as for interest and effort.  They will get what they get but they don’t intend to work too hard to get it.  This behavior probably explains the lack of gardening conversations between my friends and I.  Everybody claims a lack of focus this year too.  They’ve got a lot of major projects going on elsewhere and something’s got to give if they are going to get them done in a reasonable space of time.  Something had to give and for many it was gardening.

I think that for myself, I have spent a considerable amount of time assisting the effort to get the gardens going at Nolan and John R. King.  Both of these school gardens got in before mine.  I was fortunate that some veggies that over-wintered in the garden gave me some of my earliest taste experiences.  I had lettuce and scallions in May and June, plus the garlic I planted last November has been harvested as I write this.  I didn’t really get anything in the ground until June 2nd.  I spent the entire day and the two days that followed (between rain storms) putting every plant I had in and planting seeds also.  So in spite of my laxity of energy and desire I have happily managed to get the following crops in:

  • Greens (All Greens Mix)
  • Arugula
  • Nelson Carrots
  • Napoli Carrots (Fall)
  • Lettuce (Mesclun Mix)
  • Spinach, Space
  • Yankee Bell Pepper
  • Early Jalapeno Pepper
  • Italia Sweet Pepper
  • Big Beef Tomato
  • Brandywine Tomato
  • Cherokee Purple Tomato
  • Black Cherry Tomato
  • Green Zebra Tomato
  • Paste Tomato
  • Marketmore Cucumber
  • Georgia Collard Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Belstar Broccoli (Fall)
  • White/Green Cabbage
  • Red Cabbage
  • Tenderbush Green Beans
  • Goldmine Yellow Wax Beans

For a guy that’s supposed to be experiencing an overwhelming feeling malaise this is no small undertaking.  There are 3-20 ft. rows of each bean type…17 tomato plants, 6 varieties14 pepper plants, 3 varieties24 cucumber plants (trellised)4 of each cabbage…6 collard greens…6 broccoli (plus 6 to be planted).  This year I didn’t plant two of my standards, yellow squash and zucchini, as well as a host of peppers (long/short cayenne, ancho/poblano, hot/sweet banana).  I also skipped on the tomatillos.  I guess the several containers of frozen Salsa Verde in my freezer should serve as a reminder of what I should not grow in the immediate future. 

Maybe I am slightly disaffected because there have not been the usual challenges as per seasons before.  I used to get so much fun looking out my office window, keeping watch on the squirrel population as they devastated my garden.  My BB gun has been in the closet now for two years.  Or the times when 50 to 100 birds, black ones with black beaks and iridescent chests, would land in my yard and walk from one side to the other eating and destroying (breaking) everything in their path.  They got a lot of insects but there was a toll to pay.  They would use the garden as a giant dust bath, just flipping and flapping…sometimes fighting around the garden.  Breaking whatever they could…collateral damage, right?  Of course there were the rabbits…my hip-hop friends that nibbled exclusively on young, tender shoots.  All of this has stopped.  Stopped virtually completely!  And I think I know why…my inflatable snakes.  The inflatable snakes from last year.  I haven’t had to put them out this year because no animal…bird or rodent…has come into my yard.  They stopped coming in last year and with the exception of one rabbit and one squirrel hopping quickly across the yard I have not see any pest/varmint in my garden this year.  Maybe they think that the snakes are still out there somewhere…lol.  I do miss the birds, especially the wide variety I did see, but I don’t miss the rest of them that’s for sure.

I ultimately think that I am slowed more than just a little because of the unpredictability of the weather, here and across the nation.  Last year, we were experiencing extreme heat and violent outbursts of weather.  A combination that was not conducive to high output at any level.  This year, with the somewhat mild winter, we were hit by a spring that was somewhat reminiscent of past springs (not as moderate as last year) and a summer that to me was kind of slow to take off.  Last year we had the heat and this year, so far, we’ve got rain…Rain…RAIN and plenty of it.  We have had more than enough rain.  Last year from June 1 through July 30, I hand watered each and every plant on almost an every other day basis.  Because of the heat, unfortunately I over-watered.  So far, this year, I have physically watered my garden only 3 times.  Imagine that…only 3 times (and one of those times it rained afterward).  Between June 1st and July 21st, 61 days…it has rained 29 times!  That’s almost every other day!  Perhaps, I and many others are feeling like we have no control…no control of the weather (how much rain can be too much rain)…no control over the care of the vegetables…no control of the overall outcomes.  All we can do is plants them…put them in that damn ground and nurture them to health and productivity.

Is this what our forefather’s faced?  The Scott’s brand or Miiracle-Gro didn’t exist!  Technology for them was a well that was not more than 10 steps from the garden.  Man, Woman, child, family and friends against the elements.  You didn’t get fancy or waste a space with something that wasn’t going to come close to expectations or needs.  It was about land management.  You had to seasonally rotate and manage crops so that you could eat all year.  Frigidaire?  What was that?  Kenmore?  Come On!  You better get your crops down into that “root cellar”[7] and let them set for keepin’!  Back then, you gardened/farmed with an ongoing desperation and frustration, so maybe that’s what I am feeling now.  As much as I would like to have it, that magically charged green thumb, it’s not going to happen.  I will have to adjust, think smart and adapt to whatever the elements and the environment give me. It looks like in several ways this year will be as good as last year and better too in specific areas.  My bean production should be up, while I am sure my tomato output will be down.  I will take a good bean yield any day! My cabbages are off to a slow start but the collard greens are doing quite rightly so.  Hot banana peppers are looking good and plentiful, jalapeno peppers are at standard and bell pepper plants are flowering.  I will have a good yield from my cucumbers; the plants right now look vigorous and strong.  I will need 101 different ways to prepare this vegetable if they hold to form. 

2013 photo 1

Cucumbers and plum tomatoes

2013 photo 3

All my little bean soldiers standing in a row!

2013 photo 4

2013 photo 5

A row of carrots planted between two rows of garlic

2013 photo 7

2013 photo 8

2013 photo 9

All of the garden scaffolding…can’t wait till the tomato plants fill them out.

2013 photo 10

These pictures were actually taken about 3 weeks ago and a lot has happened since they were taken.  I’ve got beans on the plants and tomato development and growth is improving.  Fall crops will get in next week.  I have come to like this garden.  It’s different…it’s practical…it’s creative.  Like most experienced gardeners and farmers, I will learn from this year, put it in my toolkit, and get ready for 2014.

The Vegan Chronicles: June Axelrad

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pig

As you all know, regular or casual followers of this site, I am very concerned about health and diet issues(see list below) that I personally face and some that our society and cultures in general face. So today, after a serious, but fun conversation with my old friend, June Axlerad, we are going to dive in a little more on the subject of vegetarianism and the vegan lifestyle. June is “almost” a vegan and because she is so passionate about vegan-ism, I asked her if she would like to write today’s article. Being a vegan is no passing fancy for June. For as long as I can remember she has been a vegetarian (I think that’s what it was called 40 years ago) a fact that I must have overlooked even as I have had to change a lot of my eating habits. I bet she has some great tips for me as I try to include more vegetables in my meal plans. I now consume about 60 percent less meat than I use to eat. No, it’s probably not where I need to be but I am getting there. Several of my friends are starting to have meatless meal days and what started out as just one day a week has grown to a few, so there must be something going on other than fanaticism.

June is just as passionate about gardening and has taken an interest in supporting the gardening program, Project Sweet Tomato and its two schools, Nolan Elementary-Middle School and John R. King Performing Arts Academy.

This article is simply about motivation. What motivated June, and I am sure many others, to embrace a life program that goes way beyond individual sustenance. Vegan-ism is also about the environment. It’s about protecting and valuing what makes this world worth living in. I learned that from my conversation with June, so let’s read on!

June writes…

If you have ever considered giving up or cutting down on meat, or have belittled or mocked someone who does not partake of animals, this article may be for you. You may find some of it disturbing or offensive but I must speak what I know. Vegetarianism for me is not a restriction or a deprivation. It is so intrinsically a part of me that I have actually had nightmares about biting into meat.

I have not [except by accident or deceit] let animal flesh or any forms thereof, i.e. broth, pass my lips for 14 years. Prior to that I had numerous ’stints’ as a vegetarian. It was much harder to be vegetarian in my younger years, restaurants didn’t offer choices and there were few substitutes available. I can tell you that even as a child, I would see road kill and think “that is what I’m eating.” It was not a pleasant thought.

So why, might you ask, do I not eat meat? I might turn that around and ask “Why do you not eat your dogs and cats?” I do not see a distinction between pets and farm animals. They are all sentient beings, in other words they feel affection, they feel pain, and they feel fear. Pigs are more intelligent than dogs. They are loving and will roll on their backs to have their bellies rubbed. Chickens love to climb on your lap. I suggest reading The Good, Good Pig by Sy Montgomery or The Pig Who Sang to the Moon”by Jeffrey Masson. For an almost unbearable description of what happens in slaughterhouses you might read a chapter in Skinny Bitch”, by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin which describes not only the horror the animals endure, but how traumatized the workers become. There are anecdotes of workers purposely inflicting pain, and of terrorized pigs running to and nuzzling the slaughterers for comfort. I can most assuredly say that if you eat pig, you are eating terror in all its manifestations. Pigs know what is happening to them and release large amounts of cortisol in their terrified state. Essentially you are eating fear and the toxins associated with fear. Can you really justify such cruelty with “I have to have my bacon”? There are many bacon substitutes and if you allow yourself some compassion you will get used to them, and dare I say, start to like them.

Many people feel they are doing well by only eating chicken. I must respond by saying that chickens endure more cruelty in their short, painful lives than probably any other “food” animal. I highly recommend Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals” in which he depicts the horrors he uncovered via secret forays into chicken factories [by no means can they be called farms.] He also dedicates one of the pages of the book to delineating the actual living space of a chicken. These wretched creatures cannot spread their wings nor turn around. They never see sunlight. Their beaks are lopped off as chicks sans any pain killer so they do not peck at and damage the meat .Sometimes their claws grow around the mesh cages and their waste products drop on the poor creature below them Conditions are appallingly unsanitary. “Free-range” is a myth, unless you are buying from a private individual who actually lets their chickens roam, but again, the end result is slaughter. Again, this is what you are putting in your mouths. What I find most disturbing is the “specials” i.e. 12 chicken wings for $2.00. Six chickens suffering untold pain and horror all to garner a few cents profit?

I could mention the health benefits which are numerous, and the environmental benefits, also of great extent. Perhaps that is for another day. I will end with a short story about the anger vegetarians seem to invoke just by choosing not to encounter meat. I was with my daughter and her friend at a deli. My daughter had not yet made the decision to forgo eating animals. I watched as the young woman used the same knife and gloves to make the sandwiches. I was hungry and could have ordered a veggie selection but decided I didn’t feel up to explaining why I didn’t want her to use the gloves which had just handled meat, nor the knife which had just sliced through flesh. I finally decided to venture forth and ask that clean gloves and a clean knife be used. She yelled loudly to her coworker “She’s being fussy!” I wonder if I would have evoked the same reaction had I said I kept Kosher, was Muslim, or had allergies. So if you are not inspired to give up eating animals, please think twice before telling your vegetarian friends to “just pick off” the pepperoni on a pizza.

Peace,

June Axelrad

For anybody that thinks that June is being a little extreme when she describes what goes on at our slaughterhouses or the chicken farms, I suggest that you go online to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) website archives and check out some of the documentaries they have aired about our food preparation system. It is absolutely shocking and disturbing seeing what they do to the animals we eat and the environmental problems they create and do not take responsibility for. Watching those films have had an effect on my diet and I am definitely more selective about what I eat, where it comes from and how it is prepared. Not just from the cruelty to animals aspect but from what they put into or onto the food we are supposed to eat. That is why my garden is so important to me. Probably just as important as it was to our forefathers that farmed this land decades ago. Grow your own and you know what’s in it.

Thank you June for a nice, but too brief, look into the world of a vegan. I hope you write a few more articles for me and my readers, and perhaps share a few recipes with us too. I think it would be a blast to learn more about being a vegan and stripping away the fear of a very positive lifestyle program.

Food, Health & Nutrition Articles:

Going Rogue…With A Raw Food Diet! (6/15/12

A Chance To Try Something Different…Something New! (4/27/12)

Nutrition…Are You On The Right Track? (3/7/12)

Where Do Healthy Kids Eating Habits Begin? Why At Home Of Course! (3/7/12)

Happiness Is A Warm Gun…Yes It Is!!! (1/17/12)

Cravings……….What Do You Reach For? (9/15/11)

Am I Getting Enough? (7/29/11)

The Front In The War Against Cancer…The Home Garden (5/16/11)

The Benefits of Organic Food – Update March 29,2011 (3/29/11)

Are You Fighting For Your Children’s Future? (2/14/11)

 

 

All Good (?) Things Come To An End!

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It’s Tuesday, October 30, 2012 and I am enjoying fresh vegetables from my organic garden.  Just yesterday I cooked collard greens, boiled potatoes, cornbread with a side of slice tomatoes for my mom.  The greens and the tomatoes were from my garden.  After that super hot and drought-like summer, I am totally amazed that there is anything out there, let alone it being edible.  In addition to the greens and tomatoes, I’ve got yellow squash, peppers, and tomatillos “on the bush” too, so to speak.  This is in spite of the pronounced chill in the air that we’ve had since the middle of September, with a few exceptions.

I know I said I wasn’t going to keep track of what I harvested but I decided to do it anyway.  I am a fool in love when it comes to gardening and it didn’t make sense to abandon the process for one year just because this summer didn’t turn out as well as the year before.  But all things considered, it wasn’t a bad year…it was a good year and if things had been slightly different I would have had a great yield.  At the end of the day my yield was off nearly 45% from the previous year

Vegetable                                                 2011                2012                Diff +/-

 

Cabbage/Greens/Lettuces/               31.5 lbs.        21.3 lbs.          -10.2 

Broccoli

 

Beans (all varieties)                            16.3 lbs.         2 .4 lbs.          -13.9

 

Peppers (all varieties)                        19.75 lbs.      12.53 lbs.      -7.22

 

Tomatoes (all varieties)                      121.47 lbs.   66.54 lbs.     -54.93

 

Tomatillos                                                9.01 lbs          4.84 lbs.         -4.17

 

Zucchini/Squash/Cucumber               22.5 lbs        22.63 lbs.     +0.13

 

Onions/Shallots                                      9.0 lbs.        .25 lbs.             -7.75

 

Herbs                                                        1.0 lbs           0.625              -0.375

 

Totals                                                      230.53 lbs       132.16 lbs.      -98.37

 

Surprised?  Yeah, so am I!  I am surprised that it did so well. There are some very unique things going on which I should explain so that the numbers make more sense to you.  For example…

  1. I didn’t plant as many tomatillo (2 vs. 4), pepper (24 vs. 51) or tomato plants (34 vs. 34, of which only 14 were not cherry/small tomatoes vs. 5 in 2011) as I did in 2011.
  2. I didn’t plant onions.
  3. My zucchini yield was off this year but the yellow squash made up the difference.  Cucumber yield was about the same or slightly more.
  4. Cabbage production was down significantly (small heads) whereas the greens and broccoli were up.  I did not plant any head lettuces just the leafy varieties.
  5. The bean output was just pitiful.  More plantings than in 2011 and far less yield, the worst ever in 6 years.
  6. 2011, I literally went crazy…planting and cramming as much into the garden as I could.  And when I ran out of room I bought pots and bins.  The goal was to not have to work as hard in my garden this year as I did in the previous year.  I think that there is a happy medium and I am confident I will find it in 2013.
  7. I hand-watered the garden. I didn’t want to water the weeds (which, thankfully I didn’t have many)!   I hand-watered in 2011 too, but it got to a point that I had to use the hose.  2012, though I had fewer plants they needed just as much attention.  Look at the number of plants (see point #1) I had in both years.  Hand watering takes time!  I felt like I was working myself like my mother likes to work my “government mule” ass.  I overworked myself in 2011 and wasn’t going to make the same mistake in 2012…and yet I watered AND WATERED!  I was averaging between 90 – 100 minutes every 2 or 3 days through the middle of August.  Hot days took longer.  The plants looked like they were doing great even with the heatwave, but with the notable exception of the tomatillo plants, which unexpectedly grew to nearly seven feet tall, they were all rather spindly and ultimately kind of weak looking.  But like I said, the numbers were there but the size and weight wasn’t.

In spite of the overall low production, I did have a spell there, for a while, where my dining room table was loaded with vegetables of all kinds. There was more room out of the refrigerator than in so anything that didn’t have to be refrigerated right away stayed out.  My plan was to can and freeze as usual, but there was an insufficient amount of the tomatoes I wanted to can and not enough beans to do a proper freezing project with.  When I did manage to freeze something it actually seemed like it was a lot but in reality I spent only three days in the kitchen, which I intentionally spread out over the days.

I did eat more of the veggies this time.  Since preserving them wasn’t going to work, I took the time to enjoy my garden in the moment…most of the time the veggies were picked that very day.  I had something substantial from the garden every two to three days.  I highly recommend the GRP (Garden Resource Program) Salad Mix of lettuces and their All Greens Mix (great for stir-frys).  I got compliments from everybody that I shared produce with and in spite of my low yield I still shared a lot.  Rotating at the top of the popularity list were the Purple Cherokee Tomatoes, Collard Greens, and the Cubanelle, Sweet Banana and Yellow Hot Peppers.  I had never tried to grow the Cherokee tomato variety nor had I ever had a Cubanelle pepper.  The peppers grew to a very nice size and the tomatoes had a very unique and sweet taste.  Anybody living in Detroit that owns or plans to start a garden should check out the Garden Resource Program at www.detroitagriculture.net.  It’s a great program and resource.

Another pleasant surprise was the shallots!  I didn’t think that I grew that many (20 oz.) but I have been using them about once a week since they were harvested at the end of July.  This was also the first year that my green bell peppers grew to size.  I only had 6 (out of 8) plants that actually grew some and they were beautiful.  I ate these while I froze the Cubanelle and the Sweet Banana peppers.  I was afraid to attempt to let them mature to red because I thought I was pushing my luck with the squirrels.  But, ultimately, I had nothing to worry about.

I had fewer problems with the squirrels due to the inflatable snakes I had in the garden.  In fact, I didn’t lose one pepper to the squirrels and at the worst I probably lost only about 4…maybe 5 tomatoes before the “I didn’t care” mentality took hold (October 20th).  Even now, the squirrels avoid going into the garden…hahahaha!  The garden was also fenced all around, so I didn’t have problems with rabbits either.  The sad thing was that my birds didn’t stop by and visit.  I always thought that the birds came from miles and miles away and I really enjoyed the different colors they brought to my window throughout the day.  But the snakes kept them away too.  Oh well, I guess it was the appropriate trade off, because there is a particular type of black bird that would come into my garden en masse and they would be as destructive as the squirrels.  They loved to attack any green shoot coming out of the ground and fight amongst the squashes.  But this, the year of the snakes, meant no birds…ces’t la vie!

So all in all, I enjoyed this year’s garden very much and I am sorry to see it end.  As I conclude this blog on Monday, Nov. 5th, I am proud to say that I got the most out of it I could.  Imagine picking hot and sweet peppers and tomatillos as late as Nov. 4th.  I had tomatoes out there were still ripening too!  They were small but not much smaller than the heat stricken tomatoes I had in the summer.  And I will concede that they didn’t taste as good either, but still…man…it’s “freakin” November and I was pulling healthy productive plants out of the ground.  What a summer (climate change and all) and what a fall…all good things (?) do come to an end!

P.S. I can’t wait until next year!  I have already planted nearly 60 cloves of garlic of four different varieties (Music, Japanese, Kilarney Red and Chesnok Red) in two 20 ft. long rows.

Thanks to John Adams, Jenni Littsey, and the Garden Resource Program for helping to make this year’s garden fun!

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