Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Word of Wisdom: A Case for Vegetarianism

(This post is very religious in nature - specifically my religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - but is my opinion only and is not indicative of official doctrine of the Church.)

I am a Mormon. Part of my belief system includes following a certain lifestyle code, known as the Word of Wisdom. In our scriptures, it is a promise of blessings. It is an explanation of all things good for us to use and to eat; it is also a warning against things that are harmful and addictive.

We commonly get caught up in the "don'ts" of the Word of Wisdom - Mormons don't drink coffee, tea or alcohol, don't use tobacco or non-prescription drugs.

But the list of "do's" is quite long and incredibly enlightening when studied in more detail.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, section 89 verses 10-17 state:

10 And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome aherbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—
 11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with aprudence and bthanksgiving.
 12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;
 13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.
 14 All agrain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
 15 And athese hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
 16 All grain is good for the afood of man; as also the bfruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—

I'm going to break this apart a little bit, verse by verse.

10: all wholesome herbs (ie, plants) for the constitution, nature and use of man.

Okay, so plants are for our use, like medicines. Sounds good. For our nature? Maybe that means to beautify our environment? Not too sure on that one, but it makes some sense. What about for our constitution? An old-fashioned definition means, among other things, "the physical character of the body as to strength, health, etc."

So we should use plants for food, medicine, and pure enjoyment. Got it.

11: use herbs and fruits in season, with prudence and thanksgiving.

This is where it starts to get interesting. Do we actually eat food only in season, or are we buying tubs of strawberries in December, flown in from South Africa? Is that following the advice and instruction given?

Something to think about.

The word prudence is a good one. Part of the definition includes "caution in practical affairs; discretion or circumspection."

Okay, so um, what do discretion and circumspection actually mean?

Discretion = wise self restraint

Circumspection = discretion out of concern for moral or social repercussions*

I think that a case could be made against not only eating foods out of season, but also considering the implications of the so-called food miles involved, fuel and energy expended in transport and storage, and simply even overeating in general.

Very interesting indeed.

12 - 13, 15: flesh of beasts and birds to be used sparingly, and only in times of winter, cold or famine.

Now we're getting closer to the focus of this essay today. One aspect of these verses that jumped out at me was a missing word, as compared to verse 11 up there. Is the flesh of animals meant for our constitution? Our physical health and strength?

Maybe not.

How many times have I truly experienced a deep winter, cold spell or famine? Never! If the flesh of animals isn't particularly designed for normal health and strength, to be preserved in emergency circumstances and then only sparingly, am I following this counsel if I eat the Standard American Diet? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, Probably Not!

16: fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, all these are good for us to eat.

From things I have been reading recently, a plant-based diet is completely compatible with good health. Most proteins in legumes and such are much more bio-available than in meat.



How can we use animals for food and raiment, as spelled out in another scripture, Doctrine and Covenants 49:18-19 and 21?

Does this automatically give us a free pass to eat steak and potatoes? I don't think so at all!

I am more of a mind to consider the idea of permaculture when I read these verses.

Animals don't have to give us milk, eggs or meat to provide food for humans. If allowed to eat naturally (ie, grass-fed cows as opposed to corn-fed), they put far more into the soil than they take out of it. Here is an example of farm animals being useful and providing food for human consumption:

COWS
-grass fed
-quality manure
-when grass is cut back the equivalent amount of root dies off and decomposes, increasing soil quality
     |
     |
     |
    \ /
 
CHICKENS
-scratch through the cow manure, spreading it out
-add their own manure
-destroy pests
     |
     |
     |
    \ /

SOIL for growing PLANTS
-quality is improved by animal activity, manure
-better grass to feed the animals
-higher crop yield achieved, without use of chemicals leeching into the water supply


I'd like to point out another word in this study: Prudence. Doctrine and Covenants 59:20 warns us NOT to use animals to excess or extortion. However, this is exactly what happens to animals used for food, including bees!

I don't think eating meat is a sin. But I don't see how we can justify eating it whenever we want, and in vast quantities. As it says in Genesis 9:4-10 (JST) we will be held accountable for our meat eating choices.

For me and my family, we've decided to abstain from eating meat from now on. Maybe we'll buy a bit of meat from ethical sources for Christmas, but I don't know. We'll talk about it more when the time comes.

As for now, life is good! The kids don't miss meat all that much, apart from the sausages they smelled cooking in a stall in town the other day. We've talked about our reasons for avoiding meat, and they agree. We are keeping ex-battery hens on our allotment, and they know all about the terrible conditions those poor birds have had to suffer. We don't want to give our money to companies that treat animals badly.

*I have extreme ethical concerns about the meat industry, which is why I cut back on our meat consumption a while back, so full-on vegetarianism doesn't seem much harder at this point!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Five Things For Friday: Things I'd Like To Try


-1-

Barefoot living. 


I recently watched a news show about all of the guff companies try to sell you when you are working out; special clothes, shoes, food and drink. Turns out that none of it is necessary, even shoes themselves.

This surprised me a bit. I was always under the impression that running shoes were high-tech and very important in keeping one's knees intact whilst exercising, but some scientists say this isn't so. And not just scientists, but also the American Army. They did a test on men who ran with fancy shoes and old walking shoes, and the amount of running-related injuries were almost exactly the same for both groups.

Interesting, no?

There is also a subset of the American population who are devoted to living their lives as barefoot as possible. They say it is better for your physiology and that it is more fun to feel the earth as you walk along. When you run in bare feet, your body shifts its weight differently and it actually lends itself to fewer stress-related injuries because you aren't landing on your heels for the jarring impact; you land more on the ball of the foot which spreads the weight out more evenly.

I find all this fascinating. I love the idea of not having to buy shoes anymore, to be honest. As cute as shoes are, they almost always give me aching feet or blisters or just plain annoy me. I once tried to get my calloused skin removed by those fish that eat dead skin, and I nearly crawled out of my skin during the experience. It was horrible!

If I walk barefoot everywhere, those callouses will be put to good use.

Unfortunately, it isn't socially acceptable to walk in public without shoes, and there are only so many social mores I am willing to push in one day. I will keep my shoes on when I go places, but I might just slip them off once I get there....

-2-

Dumpster diving.
In the UK, some 48 million tonnes of food is thrown out from shops and grocery stores every year. About half of it is perfectly edible.

I find this statistic shocking! Recently I was in a grocery store at about 10pm and watched two young men bag up the day's bread and load it into a metal trolley. There were at least four or five large bin bags full of bread that was clearly going to be thrown out (they were squishing it all down to fit into the trolley).

What a terrible, needless waste! Why isn't this food being put to good use? Why isn't it sent to homeless shelters or bagged up for distribution to other people in need?

There is a growing movement in America of people living exclusively off of the food that gets thrown out. I even happened across a blog of a woman who asks her local grocer for fruit and vegetable "scraps" at the end of each week so she can feed them to her chickens. She picks out the food that's still useable and ends up with mountains of food!

I might look into this a bit more. Maybe the fruit and veg markets in town centre would be willing to give away their old stock at the end of the day, or at least at a hugely reduced price.

And what about dumpsters at the back of grocery stores? Apparently they are padlocked to prevent picking over, or even covered in blue dye or bleach to ruin the previously edible food.

With all the starving people in the world, and in our own towns, this should not be happening. It is a problem that needs to be addressed somehow! I don't think I'm up to picking food out of dumpsters, but I'm not adverse to asking for leftovers on market day. Don't ask, don't get, I always say.


-3-

Front yard gardens.



Another growing movement in America, is well, growing things. Specifically food, and specifically in whatever inch of space you have available, including the front yard.

I really, really love this idea. It's not something that you would necessarily find in England, because most people don't have a front yard, or if they do it isn't particularly large. The front of our house is entirely paved over for a driveway, but there is a patch of land between the driveway and the public footpath. I might be able to grow something edible in there.

This front yard gardening causes a fair amount of controversy with neighbours and townships who think it is an eyesore and depreciates property values. With the cost of food skyrocketing and the dubious nature of GM crops looming over us, I say more power to them!

We all need to grow our own food, and there are so many resources online giving tips on how to utilise the space you have available.

I'm really excited because my runner beans and zucchini are taking off right now. I have a little tomato bush that is doing well, surprisingly, considering our weather conditions, and my fingers are crossed that a pumpkin or two will make an appearance. I get immense satisfaction from walking outside, picking food off a plant, and eating it for dinner. I have learned so much this year, with my tiny garden plot, and I can't wait to expand my skills and try new things next year! We have an allotment now, with five ex-battery hens in residence. It is too late in the season for me to wrap my head around planting anything at the allotment (there are still many, many weeds to eradicate), but next year I am determined to have a bumper crop!

-4-

Raw foods.


When I first heard about people who only eat raw foods, I thought "what about their meat? ew!"

Heh.

I've been learning more about the raw food eating thing, and I've gotta say, I love the idea. I really enjoy fresh foods (see #3) and reading about raw food eating has bumped me into the direction of a radical overhaul of my eating habits.

I've decided to be vegetarian. This is probably a decision that is a long time coming, as we have reduced our meat intake drastically over the past few months, and it hasn't been a big deal. But I have made a proper mental change in what I'm going to eat and fix for my family, and I'm really excited!

As for eating everything raw, I don't think I can do that 100%. I like warm foods! I like soups and bread and other yummy things like hummus and nachos. But I'm trying to eat raw foods at least a lot of the time. Like, perhaps all morning until lunch, and any other snacks for the rest of the day.

One thing I am not doing is dieting. This isn't a weight-loss technique or a way to control my life through eating. It is a change for health, ethical and even religious reasons. Although eating all my food raw may not be for me, I am giving it a try and already feeling better for it. 

-5-


Eating my placenta.


Ah, yes. Speaking of eating things....

I would definitely cook/dehydrate my placenta.

(also, you are welcome for the above picture of a placenta... I could have chosen something far more realistic, believe you me)

I once read an article saying that eating the placenta is cannibalism and thus against what the Bible teaches.

This pulled me back a bit and made me wonder if I ate my placenta I would be inviting a thunder-bolt from above!

I'm still not sure about that one. I am currently reading a book about the Donner Party, and I've decided that I'd rather starve to death than eat another human being (aren't you glad you are reading my blog today?!).

But is that the same as eating my placenta? Does chewing your fingernails count as cannibalism? What about sucking on a scratch/bleeding wound? What about breastfeeding, for that matter? (slightly joking there)

Where do you draw the line on the issue? I don't really know. There are a lot of stories from women who have encapsulated or dried the placenta and felt amazing after their births.

I've suffered from PND in the past, but it was situational and I don't believe that I am particularly prone to depression. After my last birth at home, I was incredibly happy and at peace. There was no need for placenta eating at that point.

But hey, if there is a natural way to combat depression and that just so happens to be attached to the baby's no-longer needed umbilical cord, why not? I won't judge.

At least it's definitely free range, right?


(this bizarre list is brought to you by Women in the Scriptures blog hop)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Tuscan Chickpea Soup and Bread Rolls

I took these foods to a gathering recently and they were very popular with people! The soup and bread do take a bit of advanced planning and time, but I think it's worth the effort.

Tuscan Chickpea Soup

Ingredients

2 Tbs olive oil
3 red onions, finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped
at least 4 cups water, or enough to make it look like soup
1 chicken oxo cube, or equivalent chicken stock when combined with the water above
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 cans chickpeas, or equivalent dried chickpeas soaked overnight and boiled for 30 minutes
1 can tomato passatta
3 chopped fresh tomatoes
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

Method

1. If needed, soak the dried chickpeas the night before and boil them while preparing other ingredients.
2. Fry chopped onion and garlic in olive oil for about 10 minutes over medium heat.
3. In a large pot, combine the onion and garlic with the cooked, drained chickpeas, water, oxo cube, herbs, salt and pepper, passatta and chopped tomatoes.
4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Using a hand blender, blitz the soup for a minute or two. This should thicken the soup a bit without losing the chunky texture.
6. Stir in the vinegar, boil for another minute or two, and remove from heat.
7. Serve!

I'll be totally honest here, to say that I just winged it with the chickpea amounts. I poured a bunch of dried chickpeas into my quart jar, added water, and by morning they swelled up to the very brim of the jar. It seemed like a good enough amount.

Bread Rolls

This is a great recipe from the back of a box of dried yeast, with a few adaptions I've made along the way.

Ingredients

1.5 lbs flour - I usually use 2/3 wheat flour and finish it off with white flour
2 tsp salt
2 Tbs butter
1 x 7g sachet of dried yeast
2 cups warm water, made from 1 cup boiling and 1 cup cold

Method

1. Mix the water and yeast together, whisking to ensure it is completely dissolved. Leave in a warm place for 10 minutes to activate the yeast. It should look frothy.
2. Add the butter, salt and flour, mixing into a soft dough.
3. Turn onto a floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes. Longer if you have children helping you and they need to take turns.
4. Put a glug of the oil of your choice into your bowl, place the rounded dough inside, and flip so the oil is on all sides of the dough.
5. Dampen a tea towel, place over the top of the dough, tucking it in around the edges. Place in a warm place to double in size, for about an hour.
6. When the dough has risen, pinch the dough into required size of your bread rolls. If they are for my family, I make them small (the kids tend to eat a small bread roll more readily than a large one), but if feeding others I make them much bigger.
7. Place onto your tray, in whatever formation you want. I like my rolls to rise close together, so they are sort of a pull-apart variety.
8. Cover with that same damp tea towel to rise again, this time only for about 15 minutes.
9. Bake in preheated oven, at 180C/350F, for 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of your rolls and the doneness you require.
10. If you are feeling extra decadent, spread a little butter over the top of the rolls as soon as they get out of the oven. Mmmm!


My oven has a large range of heating; the lowest setting is 30C/85F. When I'm activating the yeast and rising the dough, I set it to 45C/110F. For the second rise, I leave the rolls on top of the oven and turn the heat up to 180C. When the oven is hot enough, I just pop the rolls in. I don't really let them rise for very long, or in a very warm place.

I am very happy with this bread recipe, because there is no sugar needed and I haven't managed to mess up yet!

I tend to double the recipe, use half for rolls and the other half for a loaf (I only have one loaf pan). The first day we eat the rolls fresh, and the second day we slice into the loaf.


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Quiet Corner, 1 Week On

So, a week after setting up the quiet corner, and I am happy to report that things are going well!

The lure of the new toys as they got delivered to the house was enough to cause a bit of a raucous one night, when everyone wanted to hold the egg light (especially the toddler). It is very pretty and the slow change from one colour to the next is quite soothing.

I am incredibly pleased when I see one of the kids chilling in the corner, headphones on and flicking through a book or looking at the gel timer. Sometimes they gravitate towards it because they are at a lull in their chosen activities, but several times I have noticed someone purposely sitting there in order to calm down.

My nine year old daughter is full of pre-pubescent hormones and sometimes loses her temper in a spectacularly loud fashion. (um, I wonder where she got that from? yikes)

The other day, when she was particularly annoyed with her brother, she stomped off and sat down in a huff for a bit of quiet time. She put the headphones on, read a picture book, and was in her own little world for a while until she felt able to deal with other people again.

It's not all roses and unicorns here, though. There is no magic cure for cross tempers or clashing personalities! The toddler wanders off with the Quiet Corner supplies, much to everyone's consternation, and there are moments when a person can't even breathe loudly in the vicinity of the stressed person.



I have yet to use the corner myself. I don't quite fit, for a start. It is definitely a child-sized space.

This article on the disadvantages of time-outs really makes a lot of sense to me. I like that our Quiet Corner isn't a punishment, or a banishment. It's a chance to relax in a dedicated space, whenever a person feels like they need it. I think I need an adult's version somewhere else in the house!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Quiet Corner

My parenting has changed over the years. I still struggle with my temper, but it has gotten better and I'm always trying to prevent myself from overreacting and from being selfish. Selfishness is probably the leading cause of Bad Parenting Moments in my daily life. It's a work in progress.

One of my old go-to disciplinary techniques was the "naughty step." It never really worked all that well, and ended up being a battle of wills with my incredibly strong-willed children.

I don't believe in spanking/smacking/hitting and don't feel it does anything positive for the child or my relationship with that child.

Grounding, taking things away, threatening... sigh. I've done these, and still do them. I don't think they work, long term. I hate threatening to take a privilege away if they don't behave in a prescribed manner. I am trying to stop this method, but I don't think I'll be able to cut it out entirely - motivation is a powerful driving force with my kids, and it's very easy to use that to my advantage as a parent.

What I want and prefer is to instill a level of inner wisdom and discipline in my children.

I want them to be able to step away from a heated situation before violence or mean words erupt.

I want them to follow the (few) house rules because they appreciate living in a tidy, clean home, and realise that we are all in it together.

I want them to perform necessary tasks even if they aren't fun to do, because the work needs to be done.

I want my kids to grow into adults with a strong work ethic, an inner conscience, and a love for their fellow human beings on this earth.

Unfortunately, we all struggle with our temper in this house. I tend to blame myself, because although I am mellowing out over time, the kids have all seen me blow my top many times and they have copied that behaviour. Ugh. They absolutely HATE being sent to their rooms when they are in freak-out mode, to the point of me having to physically move them there (which is a bad, bad scenario), so frog-marching them to their rooms to "cool off" just doesn't help matters.

When I came across this blog post on teaching a child to find his/her center when feeling upset or out of sorts, it really resonated with me. It is a way of helping children find their own way of calming down and relaxing. It even has a meditative feel to it, which appeals to me as well.

So I did some online shopping, and came up with these items for our own special corner of the house, called the Quiet Corner.


Firstly, noise cancellation headphones. These aren't anything fancy, and probably won't work like the mega-bucks ones, but I'm hoping it will give a slight listening-to-the-ocean-in-a-seashell effect and help soothe and calm a wound-up child.


I could have gotten a sand timer, but this gloopy one is just cooler. I can imagine one of the kids zoning out, watching the blobs roll down the slope and glooping down into the blue stuff at the bottom. Neat, right?

There's also the advantage of timing their stay in the Quiet Corner in case it all gets too exciting and other kids are waiting to enter.


Mood lighting. This little egg light slowly changes colours over a few minutes, and is hand-held. The soft glow and bright colours are sure to be interesting and calming.


Something for the senses. This little toy can be moved and manipulated into different shapes, and the rubber grips are bumpy, smooth, knobbly and lumpy. It will be a small addition to interest and distract.


Quiet Corner signage. Rules of the corner include:

1 person at a time
2 minute stay, but longer if there isn't a queue
all items in the Quiet Corner stay there



In use! There is some shiny gold fabric hanging from the walls to make it a bit more special. Behind the fabric is a string of lights wrapped around some willow sticks I bought as a Christmas decoration several years ago. Being behind the fabric makes the lights glow nicely. I also have a folded quilt on the floor, a small cushion to lean against, and books in a wicker basket. All the other items I bought will go in there, once they arrive!


I'm really happy with it so far. The fabric was a pain to hang up, but I am terrible with hanging things on walls anyway and usually resort to blue-tack or tape. I tapped a few tiny nails in the wall and hung the fabric from them, but some of the plaster chipped away while I did it. Annoying! That is going to take a lot to fix up when we come to move someday.

The Quiet Corner might not last very long. I don't know if it will still be in use when the newness wears off, but I'm hopeful. I have a toddler that needs to learn how to cope with strong emotions and I think this will help a lot.