Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I just made some lunch, which consisted of a can of Trader Joe's tuna in olive oil, mixed with cornichon pickles and Goya chick peas, also from a can. Yum.

My place of work just sponsored a month-long Can Drive and collected over 500 cans of protein (tuna, ham, etc.) to donate to a local food pantry. Hooray!

And I received an email this morning from the Breast Cancer Fund:
We know BPA is all around us, and the CDC tells us the chemical is in almost 95 percent of us. And we know that laboratory studies have linked BPA to breast cancer, along with a whole host of other serious health problems. But what is the leading source of the BPA that contaminates our bodies? If we removed that source, how much would our BPA levels drop?

The Breast Cancer Fund and Silent Spring Institute conducted a study, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, to find out. We enlisted five families for a week-long investigation. First, the families ate their normal diets. Then, we provided them with three days’ worth of freshly prepared organic meals that avoided contact with BPA-containing food packaging, such as canned food and polycarbonate plastic. Finally, the families returned to their normal diets. We measured their BPA levels at each stage.

While the families were eating the fresh-food diet, their BPA levels dropped on average by 60 percent.
Those with the highest exposure levels saw even greater reductions: 75 percent.

These groundbreaking results tell us that removing BPA from food packaging will eliminate our number one source of BPA exposure.

Scary, isn't it?

The email continues:
That means you can make changes right now to reduce your family’s levels of this chemical linked to breast cancer. It's as simple as cooking at home with fresh foods and making some very basic changes in your kitchen, such as limiting canned foods, choosing glass and stainless steel food and beverage containers, and not microwaving in plastic. You might also consider eating fewer meals out—especially at places that don't use fresh ingredients.
But how about those 500 cans of food we just donated to the food pantry? Is it better to eat something that might have BPA in it, or not to eat at all?

I think this is an important study, and it certainly will help raise awareness of BPA and its connection to the food supply. But I also feel that this issue is bigger than us. The email continues:
But while we can take steps to reduce our BPA exposure, we need big-picture solutions to ensure that everyone is protected from this chemical. Together with you, we are working tell industry and government that we want safe, non-toxic food packaging now.
So now what? I will continue my work with MBCC to continue to fight for reducing chemicals in our environment. I will continue to prepare and serve fresh veggies as much as possible from our CSA, from our garden, and from the grocery store. Will I stop using canned food altogether? Not sure. Not yet.

Here is a link to info about that study from the Silent Spring Institute
Here is a link to info from the Breast Cancer Fund

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rules, guilt, and seders

I listened to the latest podcast of Vox Tablet recently as I drove a short distance from my office to pick up some lunch. Vox Tablet is the audio arm of Tablet Magazine, "a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture." While I don't read the online magazine that often, I do listen to the podcasts frequently. I like the host Sarah Irvi. She's smart and spunky.

So this week's episode is about Cokie Roberts, of NPR fame, who -- surprise! -- is married to a Jewish man. Cokie was raised Catholic, and married her culturally-but-not-at-all-religiously-Jewish husband Steve Roberts in the 1960s. Trying to figure out a way to integrate Judaism into their home, Cokie was the one who decided that they should have a seder. And the rest, as they say, is history. They just published a new book, a haggadah actually, called Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families.

Back at the office, I'd eaten my lunch, and I was strangely annoyed. And trying to figure out why.

These are my thoughts. It's one thing to say -- I'm culturally Jewish, and I'm going to have a Passover seder, and that's all I'm going to do -- and keep it to yourself. But to put it out there as a model of what people should do? It feels unfair to me. Judaism is a lot more than conducting a Passover seder. How about all the laws, all the rules, all the guilt? (especially all the guilt?)

I don't know. This whole thing sounded like a white-wash, if you will, of what Judaism really is. Judaism isn't just a Passover seder, for goodness sakes. Sure, a seder is a good thing. But what about cleaning for Passover? Changing the dishes? Buying the Kosher for Passover foods? Purging the house of all the chametz? And so on? Passover is huge, and takes a month or more of preparation. It isn't just a seder.

I realize that this is ironic coming from me, the one who breaks all the rules. But is it better to break the rules knowing what they are, than to blithely do some rituals, not even knowing about the rest?

Or here's another example that I vaguely remember from my past: is it better to eat a cheeseburger knowing that you are breaking the rules of kashrut (and having decided to break the rules) than to do it unknowingly?

That's the issue.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I found a baseball in the backyard today

I found a baseball in the backyard today
It had been covered by a layer of snow
(Five layers, actually)
We had five snowstorms this year
Each layering on top of the other
Like layers of sedimentary rock

But today
The snow is almost gone
A plastic bag, a candy wrapper, soggy pieces of paper
And the baseball
Appear in the yard
The baseball is soggy, dirty, but intact

If I move the wet layer of leaves
I can see the first signs of daffodils
Pushing green out of the cold ground

Yet somehow
The baseball is an even
More hopeful
Sign of spring.