We Care - Earth Care!
Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church
November 2020
The Food Issue
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
—Michael Pollan
Food, so essential and basic, has become a fraught and complex issue. We hear dire reports of food deserts and hunger in the United States, environmental degradation from agribusiness, and surging rates of obesity and diet-related illness.

What’s the best diet for long-term health? What agricultural practices work best for our planet? How can we fairly share earth’s bounty while making wise food choices? What is food anyway? The subject is vast, and here we can just scratch the surface. But, while the problems can seem overwhelming, faith reminds us to approach our daily bread with joy and gratitude.

In this issue

Speaking of Faith: John Tallmadge goes foraging, Julie Malkin tries vegetarianism, Floy Ann Marsh finds fellowship in the kitchen, Rebekah Nolt remembers to say grace
Walking the Talk: Nan Costello discovers community supported agriculture, Pam Bach and Bill Hopewell go volunteering, Judy Lindblad learns about feeding body and soul
Kids Corner: Linda Ford shows how to cook without heat
Bookshelf: Judy Cunningham reviews Michael Pollan
Quick Escapes: Julie Malkin shares media food adventures and Pat Timm shares online resources.
Speaking of Faith
A Taste of Eden
John Tallmadge writes:
I first encountered wild foods as a kid growing up in East Orange, New Jersey. My mom was into crafts and self-sufficiency. She made owls out of pine cones and raccoons out of gum balls, and it wasn’t long before she had us gathering dandelions and boiling down maple sap. In the summer we went hunting for mushrooms and wild grapes at our country place. I remember frying puffballs and helping her strain the boiled grapes to make tart, purple jelly.
But it was long wilderness trips that really hooked me on foraging. After a week on the trail, dehydrated food begins to stick in your craw. On the John Muir Trail in the high Sierras wild onions and fresh-caught trout felt like manna from heaven. Ditto for blueberries and walleyed pike in the Boundary Waters. Every taste confirmed nature’s abundance. It felt like a kind of grace.
I hardly expected to find wild foods in the city, but lo and behold, they seemed to flourish along streets, in backyards and parks, and in places in every state of cultivation or neglect. Every walk brought something familiar or new. I began to anticipate when certain plants would appear. In spring, I’d scan the lawns for dandelion buds, which you can steam and serve buttered along with the greens, which also go great in salads (they’re an excellent source of vitamin C). Try steaming or wilting garlic mustard greens, or toss a salad of purslane, rich in omega-3 fatty acids. All these are esteemed in Greece, where the tavernas serve them as horta.
Moving into summer, look for blackberries ripening in vacant lots or along the edges of playing fields; they make great jam. A rainy July will bring up the orange chanterelles under my neighbor’s oak with their distinctive goblet shape and faint odor of apricots. Once I was lucky enough to find a giant puffball among the headstones in Spring Grove, but Pam said, “You found it where? I’m not eating that!” It did look like the top of a skull. But all puffballs are safe, and these were delicious. 
One autumn I discovered a persimmon tree with its soft, tart fruits that made tasty nutbread. I tried grinding acorns, which yield a nutritious flour after you leach out their bitter tannin. The Indians used to leave baskets of them in running streams for weeks, but I put the raw meal through several changes of hot water (it still took days). If you try, be sure to use acorns from white oaks, the ones with round-lobed rather than pointed leaves, for these have a lower tannin content. 
Although foraging will never replace Kroger or Whole Foods, it can provide spiritual benefits that you won't find in any market. Scripture tells us that God planted the Garden of Eden with everything needful. No doubt the first thing Adam and Eve did was to go out foraging; after all, they must have been hungry. And, Fall or no Fall, humans lived this way for thousands of years, before the invention of farming, cities, writing, slavery, government, famines, and organized religion. For most of our history we lived in an ecologically sustainable world, with which foraging can put us in brief touch every now and then.
 
So much for the progress of civilization. But of course there’s no going back. We have to rediscover and practice sustainability in the places we live, in the here and now. Foraging can help us connect with the local ecology, even if only in modest, symbolic ways. It’s a gesture of homage, maybe even a kind of communion. And hopefully it can lead to bigger, better things. Cincinnati’s no earthly paradise, but you can still get a taste of Eden right here.
Vegetarianism for the Planet and Health

Julie Malkin writes: 

In 1976 I read Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. This little treatise and cookbook introduced me to the intersection of nutrition, agriculture, food security, social justice, and health. I bought her arguments wholeheartedly and for the next 12 years was a devoted vegetarian. But at some point I realized my motives (nutrition, health and the environment) didn’t preclude me from eating meat once in a while. My rigid approach to food had begun to feel spiritually unhealthy (and besides, my 2 year old would only eat chicken). Now, while my diet still consists of “mostly plants”, I really enjoy an occasional serving of meat, especially with good friends.

But why consider vegetarianism at all? What is it anyway, and how can it help the planet?
Strictly speaking, vegetarians don’t eat meat, poultry or seafood. People choose this path for many reasons, including health, morality, and religion. Some are concerned about modern methods of animal husbandry; others desire to eat in ways that avoid waste or environmental damage. Some countries (notably India) also have cultural and ethical traditions that promote vegetarian diets. 

Until recently western medicine focused on the potential deficiencies of a vegetarian diet. But many studies now confirm the health benefits of a meat-free diet. The pendulum has swung the other way. According to the American Dietetic Association, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases”.

So far so good, but how can it help the planet? 

The Guardian summarizes 10 ways that a vegetarian diet can help the planet and promote human health:
1.   The combined climate-change emissions from animals bred for meat is more than that of cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together.
2.   Raising animals for food requires 20 times more land than raising crops for human consumption.
3.   Raising vegetables requires less water. It takes 229 pounds of water to produce one pound of rice; it takes 20,000 pounds of water to produce one pound of beef.
4.   Global agribusiness contributes to deforestation. Millions of acres of rainforest have been turned into land to graze cattle that provide burgers for the US.
5.   Waste from industrial livestock and poultry farming pollutes ground water and rivers with phosphorus and nitrates.
6.   Excess nutrients from animal waste and fertilizers are carried down large rivers, such as the Mississippi, where they cause algae blooms that create a “dead zones”.
7.   Large factory farms also generate greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. In addition, livestock produce two thirds of manmade ammonia, a major contributor to acid rain.
8.   Antibiotics are routinely used in animal feed to combat bacterial pathogens, but this practice contributes to the evolution of resistant strains.
9.   Western animal farming is based on petroleum for fertilizer production and transportation.
10. A meat diet is twice as expensive as a vegetarian one and can contribute to obesity, cancer and heart disease.

Hunger, poverty and environmental degradation are complex issues, and it is naive to think that a vegetarian diet will solve all these problems. But I believe that the choice of what I eat does create a ripple in the pond.

So, what’s on my dinner table this week? Bean chili with corn bread, pasta with garlic tomato sauce and vegan sausage (purchased at Kroger), and eggplant falafel wraps.

The Fellowship of the Kitchen

Floy Ann Marsh writes:

September snuck up on me and then disappeared. Now it appears that October is about to slip away, too. Nippy autumn air finds me searching for comfy sweaters, hearty soup recipes, and those family favorite casseroles that warm our bodies and souls. It’s time to prepare gardens for winter and enjoy the final harvests from community plots. 

A well-tended garden can promise frozen or canned foods that aren’t shipped across counties, states, or countries. Late summer efforts can gather family or neighbors in an effort to bring spring plantings into our kitchens all through autumn and winter. November usually brings thoughts of shared potlucks and church dinners.  

At MAPC dinners have always been more than just a meal. Breaking bread together binds as a community of believers. We have moved from depending entirely on the Women’s Association. Now, an all-church call for cooks and a swell diversity in aprons make up what I like to call the “Fellowship of the Kitchen.”
In past decades the Saturday before a Sunday dinner found the kitchen humming with good smells, good stories, lively music, and shared purpose. In more recent years we worked on fixing just the basics of a traditional dinner with church families providing the sides, many of which can be found in the first MAPC recipe book. We have always selected seasonal foods and cooked from scratch, keeping our efforts pretty green. We always sent leftovers home with diners or donated them to shelters in order to avoid waste.

When our century-old kitchen was remodeled, a lot of attention was given to making the space as green as possible with high efficiency appliances, switching from paper products to washable dishes, cutlery, napkins, and towels. It is a welcoming space where people gather and share themselves, much as the Sanctuary welcomes us to worship with each other. If food is a primary reinforcer, MAPC will always be blessed with a faithful congregation.
 
The church still has copies of the sesquicentennial cookbook available for purchase. Please email me for information.

A Concern for Grace

Rebekah Nolt writes:

When I think of meals around the family dinner table, the one consistent aspect--whether we were having tuna casserole or pizza--was the time of prayer before we took our first bite. Of course as a child, I did not appreciate having to wait before diving in. Now, meals have become a sacred time of my day, full of ritual and remembering.  
We all have to eat to sustain our physical bodies, but food is also a reminder of our holy connection to each other and to the earth. It is no coincidence that so many of the stories that shape our faith are centered around food, from Esau trading it all for a bowl of stew, to Jesus’s last meal with his friends. Food affects our lives in profound ways, Think, for example, of the devastating injustice of famine and poverty all over the world, while here in the United States some 40% of the food supply gets wasted.  

When I think about eating with concern for the earth and my neighbors, the challenge can feel overwhelming. I cannot always afford to buy fairtrade products that are produced with workers’ rights in mind. I cannot always buy organic or local food, made by companies that consider the ways in which their production and marketing impact the earth. I do not always have time to cook a meal, and instead order take-out. I used to get mad at myself for all the ways in which I didn’t or couldn’t eat with concern. But I’m generally OK with it now. We all cannot do everything, but we can all do something.

One way that I eat with concern every day, is going back to that childhood ritual of a blessing before each meal. It may seem like a small thing, with climate change threatening to undo everything, but through the intentional act of pausing and remembering all the human and non-human lives that went into making each meal possible, we are honoring the divine threads that hold us all together and remembering the responsibility we have to one another.
Walking the Talk
Discovering Community Supported Agriculture
 
Nan Costello writes:

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a program in which individuals and farmers partner to exchange resources. An individual becomes a member by purchasing a share of a farmer’s harvest before the growing season.
 
A variety of financial arrangements are available. Some farmers charge a flat fee for either a full or a half share, paid up front or in installments. With many farms, the monetary exchange is the only commitment in exchange for the produce, while others may also require a few hours of volunteer work . (I found that pulling weeds in the field and stripping soybean stalks was half the fun).
Most farms have a ‘season’ of 19-20 weeks usually May thru October, with a full share providing enough produce for a family of four. A share contains a variety of vegetables and flowers depending on what’s been planted and when it matures. Along with produce, eggs, beef, chicken or lamb grown on the farm may also be offered at an additional price.
 
Edible Ohio Valley is a free monthly magazine you can find in any grocery store like Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market or Whole Foods, that offers a plethora of information about local farmers, recipes, and farmer’s markets in our area. Their webpage also has a list of Local CSA farms for 2020. 

If you are interested in trying out a CSA, here are a few questions to consider:
How do I get the food?
Does the farm provide a variety of produce?
Is there a work requirement along with the initial fee? And are my children permitted to work alongside me?
Are there individual shares available?
- Is this a ‘certified’ organic farm? (If this is of interest)
Does the fee match your budget?
Does the farm have a web page? (You can often find lots of information by checking it out)
What happens if I miss a weekly distribution? Can I pick it up later?
What is the refund policy? Or is there one? 
 
I have been a member of at least three CSAs over the years and have found pluses and minuses in each. They all run a bit differently. Some have been doing CSA for years, and the experience shows. Either way, belonging to a CSA can be a community-building experience and some farms provide special events. Volunteering on the farm or  working in the fields side by side with a stranger provide opportunities to build new friendships. The hours of hard work can even be fun. If you decide to try it, go slow at first, and maybe try a smaller share to see if you like it.
 
Supporting the Earth, eating new foods, helping nearby farmers, and supporting the local economy are just a few of the benefits of joining a CSA. Believe me when I say that the foods you eat in a CSA share will be fresher and way tastier than those you get at your neighborhood grocery store!
A Bowl of Soup

Pam Bach writes:
 
My seven siblings and I never worried about going hungry. Food was made from scratch, plentiful, and delicious. My Polish mother froze and canned enough of her garden produce to carry us through the northern Minnesota winter. Now, after living over half my adult life here, Cincinnati has become home. Our diverse neighborhood of College Hill has been a good place to settle and raise our daughters, the cost of living is reasonable, and the city has a strong economic base. So I was shocked to learn in 2012 that Cincinnati ranked #2 among U.S. cities for child poverty. 

Upon retiring two years ago, I explored volunteer opportunities and discovered La Soupe. Its mission spoke to me: addressing the hunger needs of children by rescuing and transforming food waste (which amounts to a staggering 40% nationally).

I took my first shift in January of 2019 at Cincinnati State, where La Soupe had partnered to use one of their culinary classrooms in preparing meals for furloughed federal employees. I worked alongside a Northside chef and restaurant owner, opening 50-ounce cans of tomato sauce, mixing seasonings for a casserole, and chopping organic leeks, 500 pounds of which had been donated from a restaurant supplier who had over-bought.
 
A week later, I was working alongside Suzy DeYoung, the founder of La Soupe, at their original site in Newtown. This time I chopped vegetables for a soup that would be batched and delivered to one of their partner schools. Teen volunteers were packaging smoothies to accompany the soup. Nothing was wasted: the vegetable scraps were set aside for a pig farmer. Other folks were stopping on their way home from work to purchase soup, the proceeds offsetting expenses. I was amazed by the efficiency and production of this little space.

La Soupe was launched in 2014, responding to a post from Oyler School that it was out of food to send home with children for the weekend. Suzy tapped her network from years of catering and working in restaurants. Cooking is in her blood; her grandfathers were both chefs in New York City and her father, Pierre Adrian, brought the Maisonette to Cincinnati. In the past six years, La Soupe’s partnerships have grown to include over 100 organizations, resulting in the need for a bigger space. Their new location on East McMillan opened in March, at the start of the pandemic.
 
Check out La Soupe’s programs; there are many ways to be involved and still be safe during COVID:
·Rescue Transform Share: pick up surplus food and/or deliver transformed rescued food
·Bucket Brigade & Community Kitchen: partners with local restaurants to transform food to healthy meals
·Give a Crock: weekly cooking classes for high school students, who receive a crockpot, and prep food for a meal to take home to their family
·Order Online: grab and go meals
·Donate  
The St. George Food Pantry
 
Bill Hopewell writes:

This year marks the 25th anniversary of MAPC’s efforts to provide food and support for our neighbors in need. It started in January 1995 when Jane Hopewell met Janet Cavanaugh, the director of the Monica-St. George Food Pantry, and jumped in as a volunteer. Many have followed over the years…Bernie Bernadino, Elaine Stenger, Linda Vaccarielo, Bill Hopewell, Norm and Judy Lindblad, Patty Muhleman, Dan Parsley, Mike Shyrock. What do all these people do? They are part of the food chain.
 
The Pantry is supplied both by food purchased from the government through the Freestore Food Bank Warehouse, and by private donations, some organized, some random. Food from the Freestore is picked up weekly in 1500 to 2000-pound loads and stacked on the Pantry shelves by those strong of arm and back. Several local high schools also sponsor yearly food drives and deliver 70 -90 large boxes. 

Donations must all be sorted, which is a major volunteer job and a year-round challenge. The final step is the filling of large grocery bags which are distributed eight times a month to our neighbors. In addition to direct Pantry activity, MAPC sponsors the Back to School Backpack drive in the fall and the Giving Tree gifts for local families at Christmas.
 
Unfortunately, COVID has curtailed much volunteer activity. The new Director, Joan Gallagher, realizing how much the volunteers missed the comradery, has organized socially-distanced and masked picnics to keep the fires burning.
Food for the Soul
 
Judy Lindblad writes:

When Kathy Downey and son Daniel Stiver discovered a free lunch at the Transfiguration Spirituality Center (TSC) in Glendale in September, it was just the tip of a story of good food, good will, and creative care in our Greater Cincinnati Community. Six Mount Auburnites checked out the yummy free lunch two weeks later and discovered “Food for the Soul”.
Turns out that March 9th, 2020, when the pandemic forced the TSC to close, was just one of many turning points for the 122 year old Community of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal Religious Order for Women. The Community sponsors the Spirituality Center, and their Vision Statement, “A place of outrageous Hope and Extravagant Hospitality,” gives a clue to the events that followed.

A task force was formed, including a representation of Management from each department; Mary Lewis, TSC Operations Manager; and the Leadership Sisters. They faced prospect of shutting down the Center, laying off the beloved kitchen staff, stopping the provision of healthy fresh food to the needy, and canceling food orders to vendors. The Sisters who fund the Center did not want to go that route. So the task force realized that they needed to find a new way of doing business.

As COVID-19 spread, a group of people at St. Monica’s in Lincoln Heights began handing out meals and suggested that the TSC workers could provide meals once a week to the people there. “Food for the Soul” was born and soon 250 wonderful meals were being prepared every Tuesday.
Meals are now being provided at various times to Fairfield Food Pantry, St. Monica’s Lincoln Heights, The Hatcher House, Tender Mercies, Glendale Community, Friendship Plaza Senior Community, Community Gospel Mission, and Haven House in Hamilton. During the Summer United Methodist Outreach also provided meals in Lower Price Hill. Currently 1600 from-scratch meals are distributed each month.

In order to reduce costs and assure a good supply of fresh fruits and vegetables “Food for the Soul” is partnering with the Free Store Food Bank and Masters Provisions in Northern Kentucky, expanding resources and connecting with other related ministries.

TSC has shifted from a top-notch Retreat Center ministry to a growing, creative food ministry, at least until gatherings are possible again. The Sisters and others are stepping up to support this crucial ministry and “Food for the Soul” is inspiring community building opportunities like having “free” lunch with friends. As Mary Lewis says, “We are serving God by connecting resources to needs”. 
Kids Corner
Stupendous Ceviche
Linda Ford writes:

Not all cooking requires heat! Your family can prepare fish with the cooking power of simple citrus and enjoy family kitchen time. Celebrate this energy efficient meal together!

Ingredients
1 pound fresh grouper, ahi tuna, tilapia or any other fish you love. (Fresh fish should have firm flesh. If you poke it and the indentation remains, it probably isn’t as fresh as it should be.)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber
Juice from 4 lemons or 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon poblano pepper, chopped (optional)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions
1. Cut the fish into 3/4″ cubes.
2. Put all ingredients in a zippered plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal the bag. I suggest you double bag your fish and/or place the bag in a bowl, because leaks happen.
3. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and check for doneness by taking a piece out and cutting it to see if fish has a juicy pinkish center or is white all the way through. Continue to marinate until your personal taste is elevated to its happy place!
4. Serve as salad over lettuce or with chips for dipping. Add to your favorite quesadilla recipe.
A Scientist’s approach to this activity
The fish’s texture changes as it marinates in the fridge. It goes in raw but comes out cooked. The changes in color and texture are called protein denaturation: the long protein strands stretch out and form an extensive network that both firms and whitens the fish pieces. In ceviche, it is the acidic citrus juice, not heat, that causes denaturation. Warning: The process of marination does not kill pathogens, so it is important to use fresh fish and eat the dish immediately.

Can you design simple experiments to answer these questions?
How fast does the denaturation of the fish tissue occur when you use acid rather than heat? Can the fish cubes be “overcooked” by allowing the acid treatment to go on too long? How often should you examine a chunk of fish to observe the physical changes in its color and texture - every 2, 5, or 10 minutes? Do the changes occur only on the surface or proceed into the center of the fishy cube? Can other foods be cooked with acid treatment?
Bookshelf
In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto, by Michael Pollan
 
Judy Cunningham writes:
Michael Pollan has been one of my favorite food writers for years. I was fortunate to hear him speak at Xavier University in 2009, soon after In Defense of Food was published. Pollans writing nourishes my mind and soul at the same time that it encourages a natural appreciation for delicious, local food.

My parents grew up on farms in Mississippi and Tennessee, and as a child, I spent two weeks each summer visiting my grandparents. At my maternal grandparents’ home near Corinth, Mississippi, my grandmother raised the chickens that we ate for dinner, and I helped her collect the eggs that she stored at room temperature and scrambled for breakfast each morning. 

My paternal grandparents tended a large vegetable garden on their farm near Dukedom, Tennessee. I asked for tomato sandwiches almost every day for lunch, made simply with mayonnaise, salt and pepper. I learned to love okra, picked fresh and pan-fried in cornmeal, and wild muscadine grapes straight from the vine.

I didn’t connect these experiences until much later to Pollans manifesto: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” As he states in the introduction to In Defense of Food, this is the short answer to the question of what people should eat. He goes on to encourage us to shop farmersmarkets, grow our own food, and focus on the perimeter of the grocery store where we find produce, dairy products, meat and fish.

To me, it is encouraging that Pollan is not too prescriptive. He points out that people have thrived on a large variety of diets in different parts of the world, based on locally available foods and customs that encourage interconnectivity with other people and with nature. We would do well to go a little native”, in his view, by going back to a time and place where gathering, preparing and enjoying food are closer to the center of a well-lived life.
Quick Escapes
Media Food Adventures

Julie Malkin writes:

Under COVID lockdown we’re mostly homebound but that doesn't mean we can’t be mental travelers and armchair explorers. Here’s a sampling of recent web-based fare:
A show and podcast about food and farming. Produced by Indiana Public Media, it brings you storytelling, recipes, farm visits, and kitchen sessions. “From sustainable growing practices to workers' rights in meatpacking plants, from community orchards to fair trade chocolate factories, Earth Eats explores food access, inequities, connections, and critiques…(and)share(s)baking tips, gardening secrets, serious issues, and comfort food.”  From the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington.
Originally aired in December 2015, this PBS video presentation of Michael Pollan’s manifesto debunks the daily media barrage of conflicting claims about nutrition. Traveling the globe and exploring supermarket aisles to illustrate the principles of his bestselling “eater’s manifesto,” Pollan offers a clear answer to one of the most confounding and urgent questions of our time: What should I eat to be healthy?
This optimistic climate documentary, narrated by Woody Harrelson, argues for the healing power of soil, which could offer a solution to the climate crisis. Streaming on Netflix now.

Learn More

Pat Timm writes:

A major study published in Nature shows how three interventions that could keep the world food system within in environmental limits. Read the summary by Emily Hatch posted on Faunalytics.
 
The Greater Cincinnati Food Policy Council, part of Green Umbrella, has posted a mission statement, objectives, and resources to promote regional food security and cooperation. 

What's Ahead
December: Energy
Please send contributions, ideas, and creations to your faithful editors Julie Malkin mlkjulia458@gmail.com and John Tallmadge. jatallmadge@gmail.com