Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A low-fat diet versus natural food?

Before whoppers with cheese and Big Gulps, and also before most people had ever encountered a vegetarian, people used to eat smaller portions but more fried food and saturated fat. I was 19 when I tasted my first reduced-fat milk. I was in ninth grade when McDonald's came to town. So, for at least the first 14 years of my life I was fed whole foods. Even the junk foods of the 50's: Crisco, margarine, potato chips, Chef Boyardee and soda were not staples in our house. We didn't know these were really bad things, but we were cultivated to like more traditional food by our blue-collar, ethnic parents.

My mother, God rest her soul, was a wonderful cook and baker who considered working in the kitchen as therapeutic and calming. She expressed herself through cooking, and benefited by being raised in two very helpful cultural contexts. Her parents were straight-off-the-boat Italians, and she grew up in a town in Vermont, which until 1965 had more cows than people. So her papa had a grape arbor and grew phenomenal organic vegetables (even transferring Savoy cabbages to the dirt-floor cellar of the house in the Fall), her mama cooked and baked everything from scratch (even making her own cheese), and they were surrounded by a countryside abounding with wild berries and other edibles. As children, Mom, her siblings and friends would often rise before dawn in the summer and walk the five miles or so into the mountains and meadows to pick red and black raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. They would sell some door to door in town and keep the rest for the family. Nearby farms would deliver fresh, raw milk and eggs, and live chickens could be bought at the store around the corner.

As we were growing up, this way of living also continued to a large extent in our household. The main fats in my childhood home were butter and olive oil, with the addition of lard for pie crusts when the occasion arose for pie. We drank water from the vast artesian wells just outside of town (the city of Schenectady had what was considered the best municipal drinking water in the world), and milk delivered from the local dairy. Orange juice and the occasional bottle of ginger ale pretty much rounded things out for us. Dad had his red wine, often mixed with water at suppertime and they made coffee in the morning and late afternoon.

We also had our eggs delivered from a farm, and even had baked goods brought to the door once a week by the Freihofer man. Freihofer was a huge bakery in town that made all kinds of bread and sweets, and get this, had guys come around to the homes once a week in horse-drawn buggies. They switched over to regular trucks somewhere around 1960, but still showed up with their huge, unfolding case of baked goods every week. And their stuff was natural and delicious. Wow.

We had homemade tomato sauce (usually twice a week), and soups, stews, big green salads with pure olive oil and wine vinegar, local honey, seafood on Fridays, baked eggplant, roasted meats, pancakes with real maple syrup (always), beans and greens, nuts, omelets, old-fashioned oatmeal and cream of wheat, and all manner of fresh, home made food. We always ate fresh fruit every day at lunch, and often in the morning cut up on cereal or as grapefruit. We ate apples as a snack at night or mom would sit down in the living room and cut up pears or other fruit and hand them out to us, piece by piece.

For his part, Dad was a forager, and loved to walk out to the woods or fields and gather berries, nuts, mushrooms, apples and fiddle ferns. I particularly enjoyed accompanying him on these missions. My brother loved to fish, and he and Dad brought home a fair amount of trout, bass, perch and bullheads. They occasionally went hunting for small game and deer. Between what they got and what my uncles would give us, I remember eating rabbit, game birds and venison as a child.

I can honestly say that I do not know anyone in our extended family or among my parents' friends, who died young. A couple of the heavy smokers and/or drinkers died between their mid-sixties and seventies, but nobody died before that or was debilitated in any discernible way for the most part up until their 80's. And so many of them were pretty hale and hearty until within a week, and often a day, of their getting pneumonia or having a cardiovascular event which caused them to pass.

Another striking difference is that they took very little, and mostly not any, prescription drugs. These are the kind of people who just kept puttering around the house and garden, going to Sunday mass (on foot mostly), laughing, cussing, and going to parties until the end. They really lived until they died.

How could they have eaten all this saturated fat, not had the statin drugs or many other meds, and not been obese or chronically ill? Many of them were born during the first world war, and/or the Spanish flu epidemic (Dad was born in the middle of one of the first waves, in November 1918), lived through the Depression and World War II, and seemed curiously to not be physically, mentally or emotionally damaged by all of that.

When I think of all of the improvements made in health care, technology and supposed advanced knowledge in nutrition and biochemistry, all the food choices and advocacy of low-fat diets, I have to wonder:

Why is everybody so sick? And with ADHD? And fat? And bi-polar, and diabetic, and addicted, and filled with arterial plaque in their 40's and 50's, and infertile, and stressed, and depressed, autistic, and chronically ill and dying young?

What has changed, and what has to be changed back, or at least thought-through a bit more wholistically? Not only do I ask, how should we then eat, but to borrow the late Francis Shaeffer's book title, How Should We Then Live?????????????????????

More to come............

Monday, September 28, 2009

HOW SHOULD WE THEN EAT? (as women who are wise enough not to take their health for granted)

Does anyone really drink enough liquids? Can anyone actually find pure water? I have made an investment over the summer of a water filtration system called the Berkey Light. It consists of two chambers, two black filter elements that filter out everything but fluoride, and two more filters that filter the fluoride. The whole thing cost $209 brand new on e-bay, with shipping included. The black filters get replaced once a year and the fluoride filters twice a year, based on filtering 2 and a half gallons a day. This thing is so powerful that it even filtered out the blue food coloring I put into my first "test" batch of water. Now I just need to make sure I drink enough of this wonderful water each day. I used to buy spring water from Walmart for about 90 cents a gallon, so in the long run I imagine this thing pays for itself. Anyone with any kind of vascular issues, and I submit, anyone with veins and arteries should not drink water that contains much sodium or phosphorus, which is in abundance in our city water.

So I have done better with this the last few days. But something else I drink has become problematic of late, and no, its not alcohol! I don't know how many people have this problem but on certain days, my heart will pound and kind of flip flop (palpitate). This can leave me exhausted. You know,its funny how the Lord allows consequences in His loving way in order to get us to change for the better. These palpitations finally caused me to stop all the distractions and think about what I have been doing to myself. It seems that the palpitations occur with a vengeance when I drink too much coffee. And I drink too much coffee when I am not being mindful of my body and what it really needs at that point. Probably what I have needed is a glass of water or some herbal tea or a simple time out that allows me to sit and close my eyes for a couple of minutes. So this one is relatively easy; I had a cup yesterday morning, and a half cup later in the day. I avoided the huge withdrawal headache and felt better.

The other two things that play into these "wild heart" episodes are overeating big, heavy food, and being mentally and emotionally stressed. As I write about this, it is helping me to see how simple it is to just back off a bit, and eventually a lot, on these things. Back off on being stressed? I include being stressed as a choice, as well, because I do it to myself for the most part. It is a problem of not trusting, of trying to take on too much, and of involving myself in worldly affairs while neglecting the very real work that God has specifically given to me to do.

Just like mental/emotional stress, overeating stresses me physically and leads to some heavy (pun intended) consequences. I am talking about all this because I think other ladies might be able to relate. Overeating is another way of substituting one thing for another. When we overeat we are probably in a hurry and not letting our brains catch up and send us the signal that we have eaten enough. Sometimes, again, we do this because we are actually thirsty, tired, sad or angry. In other words, we need something else.

So as I start off another day, I will offer it to the Lord, and ask Him to guide me through it, balancing the food, the drink, the work and the times of rest. We all know He has a plan for each of us, and it includes slowing down and being quiet enough to listen to what He has to say.

Tomorrow, Lord willing, I will begin to scratch the surface of the "what foods are best" issue, particularly for folks who are past 40. As I have said, my dear Bob is now on about a dozen medications, and some of them could be reduced in dosage if not eliminated altogether if he quits smoking, and loses weight. I would appreciate prayers for him, that he may be successful at these, and that I might persevere in my efforts to help him.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Should We Then Eat?

We are charged with being faithful stewards of our own bodies, the temples of the Holy Spirit. We, who also have the duty and privilege of providing nourishment for others, are given no small task. I am particularly aware of this right now, as my dear husband is suffering some poor health these days, and I am overweight and laden with a pretty hefty cholesterol number, myself.

As I am getting older, I realize that this is the time to start minding my own business; you know, sweep my own dooryard, fix what I can in my own life, and not worry so much about the whole grand scheme of things. When you realize that you are very important to God and to your loved ones, you remember that the best influence you can be on the rest of the world is to manage your own tiny corner of it with grace, good sense, and order.

So, late on this Sunday evening, I propose, with the Lord's help, to make a good start of things in the morning. Back to the "early to bed, early to rise" system tomorrow, working a reasonable amount every day in the house and outside, and trying to find the right sense of what and how much to eat. I can't go wrong with drinking less coffee, but more water, eating far less at one time but reasonable amounts perhaps more often through the day, and making most of my food be vegetables and fruit.

I am praying that I can encourage my husband about his lifestyle without making him feel that I am stomping all over him, and that I will be able to offer him only good things as I set a good example by my own choices. These thoughts bring me peace of mind and heart tonight, and those have been sorely lacking of late. Thank you Lord!

To be continued tomorrow.....

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


When one lives in the south, but one's heart is in the north, September 1st is a milestone to cherish. I breathe a sigh of relief, clutching the misty morning of this day in glad thanksgiving, worn out from the heated summer race to drag myself past August's finish line, and now my soul wears a deep smile of satisfaction.

The weather here will still be suitable for air-conditioning for awhile yet, but even so, subtle changes are becoming discernible to the senses. The green of summer begins to fade ever so slightly, the crickets are singing, the cicadas are buzzing, and the air do I put it into words? Full, fertile, mellow.

And September hath introduced herself today as quite a lady. She dawns much cooler than usual, with a blessed north wind washing over the land.

"To everything there is a season..." And the Lord be praised for that fact!!

The following is an editorial written
by my brother, G. Robert Garrasi. I
thought it was noteworthy, and provides
a lot of material for discussion. If
there is anyone out there reading this,
please feel free to leave a comment at
the end of the post.

Here it is:

"Lately, the newspaper has printed a slew of letters to the editor vilifying private health insurance companies. (Coincidentally, this is the same approach now being taken by the White House.) But let's look at the facts involved in the private vs. public debate.

HR 3200 does not provide any enforcement mechanism to prevent illegal aliens from accessing the proposed public health care system.  HR 676 specifically makes the public system available to all U.S. residents (that means illegals).

The proposed public options seek to cover 47 million new participants (illegals included).

In the U.S., there are approximately 300 patients per doctor.  Forty-seven million new patients means that we would have to manufacture another 157,000 doctors.  But it takes at least 10 years of training to create a new doctor.  So we have a problem right there.  Now we could reassign doctors from medicare patients to this new 47 million cohort, but then we would have a shortage of 157,000 doctors for the elderly. As a nation, we would have to move to a triage system. How would socialized medicine change the career plans of those who would have gone on to be physicians, but would not be interested in doing so if it meant that they had to practice socialized medicine?  Perhaps we could gin out the 157,000 new “doctors” via a two year BOCES program?

Dealing with a government run system as opposed to a privately run health care system. With a privately insured system, patients have redress to state insurance commissions and the courts.  With a public system, they do not. Have you ever tried suing the federal government?  You can't do this unless it waives its sovereign immunity. And statutes of limitation issues are uniquely suited to cutting off private actions against the government. Further, HR 3200 prohibits court review of administrator decisions. Have you ever tried dealing with the VA? Or been treated in a military hospital while on active duty?  When I was so hospitalize, we were required to get out of bed and mop the floors every morning. Nice service touch, that.

The proposed legislation is rather vague in sections. This gives federal agencies more freedom in defining just exactly what the legislation means.  And federal courts, as a matter of policy, typically defer to agency interpretations in this regard.

A public single payer option would probably require several million new government employees to administer. Will these employees be subject to the rules of the market place and competitive pressures forcing them to provide good service, or will they be government employees merely trading hours for dollars? Will they be SEIU unionized? Will they be fluent in the English language? You make the call.
Proponents of the public option say that there will be $200 billion in medicare savings per year.  If there are 36 million people on medicare eligible right now, that amounts to a "saving" of $5,600 per year per patient. Just how will that be saved?

It’s been said that the public option goal is to offer competition to the private sector. But there won’t be a private sector. Consider an employer whose workforce earns on average $50,000 per year. Under HR 3200, that employer could continue to provide health insurance benefits to its workforce or cancel its health insurance plan and pay into the public plan 8% of its payroll. Eight percent of $50,000 is $4,000 per year. But family health insurance in the private sector costs about $14,000 per year. Hmmm…$4,000 public plan vs. $14,000 private plan…what to do? HR 3200 gets rid of private insurance in this fashion. HR 676 specifically does away with private health insurance via a labyrinth of pricing and service rules. Read the bills.

Finally, health insurers profit by generating revenues in excess of their costs. There costs are actuarially calculated. They price their services to earn a normal profit relative to those costs.  If they try to earn more than a normal profit, they are at a competitive disadvantage and are priced out of the market. You get what you pay for."