I am not much for viral news but every now and then I wish some stories I come across get shared far and wide because of how significant they are. The one I came across on social media a couple of days ago was COVID-19 related and as much as I wanted to distance myself from it all during the long weekend, this one got my attention (along with the high numbers of new cases in our own province.)
A parent’s worst nightmare is without a doubt the death of their child. More so when the death was preventable.
My eldest mentioned on Friday a teenager in Kamloops had suffered a fatal overdose and like every parent out there, I hoped it was just rumours. There was nothing in the news because as we all know, news on social media travels a lot faster.
Sadly, the rumours turned out to be true. A family in Kamloops is living that worst nightmare right now.
On Saturday, our neighbourhood was speckled with yellow all over: bags of food donations for the Foodbank. To say that the Kamloops community gave generously would be an understatement: 70,000 pounds of food, which should be ensuring the supply for the next six months, according to their Facebook page. Thank you to everyone who did not forget to stuff the yellow bags and big thanks to the volunteers who collected it all!
I have a hard time peeling myself away from the book I am reading to focus on this column. The book is called From the Ashes, and it is written by Jesse Thistle, presently an assistant professor of Metis Studies at York University in Toronto. The path that led him to where he is today though… OK, I will not spoil it for you. I am three quarters done and have shaken my head and winced more times than I could count since I started reading it. I had heard him sharing his story on the radio a couple of years ago while driving with my eldest to Harper Mountain. I wished then he’d write about it. He did.
You can safely file it under ‘Another day, another food study.’ Followed by… now what?
Case in point: the recent meat-centered
study coming from Dalhousie and McMaster Universities, which concluded that
the health benefits associated with reducing or eliminating red and processed
meats are minimal, and the risks we thought existed are also quite small, hence
the recommendation to eat meat without restrictions, if that’s how you feel
So what’s wrong with that, some will say. The study eased
the guilt and worry about red and processed meats. It’s good to not have guilt
or fear as a side dish, right? Granted, the researchers admitted they had not
taken into consideration any animals welfare and environmental issues, and they
considered people’s attachment to their meat-based diet as one of the factors
to base their recommendations on.
It is an interesting case of ‘better than smoking’ that has been adopted by many. Vaping, they said, does not present the same risks as cigarettes do. That many e-cigarette brands are developed, and owned, by tobacco giants…well, that’s a tell-tale like no other.
My hands smell of basil and tomatoes. I just picked the first four Roma San Marzano tomatoes from our new garden. It’s all heirloom veggies this year. They are plump and red and pushing into the thick stem with a force that leaves grooves on their sides.
The basket is half-full of potatoes; they’ll be dinner and lunches. The potato berries are hanging bright green, round and tempting (do not, for they are toxic!) as I let my hands crawl deep in the dirt where the yellow and red tubers are. It’s pure reverence, seeking food and then cooking it. The simplicity of a meal cooked from the food you grow, no matter how small the crop… there is a mark left on your heart. It fills you up.
I pick a green taut pepper and fill my hands with more basil;
purple. For a moment, I indulge in remembering my Dad’s hands handing me
tomatoes and carrots to taste; the smell of summer nights when the sun drips
honey-coloured warmth all over the horizon and the garden delivers promises; my
Mom’s delicious light summer meals. Everything else peels off for a few brief
moments and the plenitude of now is beyond rewarding.
I was to write a post about sugar and its ill presence,
about candy bars that are wickedly awaiting by the checkout tills now in bigger
packages. OK, maybe they have been around for a while and I just noticed them.
Thanks to my Mom and that garden magic that started with strawberries, pears
and red currants in the morning and ended with tomatoes and carrots and herbs
of all kinds in the evening, I have a missing sweet tooth. But I did notice the
bars this time. They were big and indecent.
The stats on obesity in North America (and beyond) are grim. 1 in 3 adults in Canada are obese and may require medical assistance to manage the symptoms. The many adverse health effects that obesity causes are daunting to think about. High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, arthritis, sleep apnea. Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years though some recent study pointed out to a mild decrease between 2004 and 2014 (I believe mild cannot be a pacifier for the sizeable problem that childhood obesity has become.)
Where are we now? People indulge and lament at the same
time, they eat and overeat because sugar does that to you. Portions grow, processed
foods abound and sugar finds its way into almost everything…Sugar was never a
true need but has become a want of gargantuan proportions. Meanwhile…the good
food grows too. If we want it. In gardens, in pots, in farms from which we buy
at the market…
Food we ferment so the good bugs in it can help our microbiome (the bacteria we carry inside and, on our bodies, a camaraderie that keeps us healthy.) I am experimenting with a new sourdough starter just for fun while a loaf is resting in the fridge for tomorrow’s baking. By the window there are summer pickles and pickled turnips (I know what you might think, but they really are so tasty!).
Hippocrates said that food should be our medicine. And yet… so much of it has become our enemy. Food is never supposed to make one sick; real food that is. Or obese. You eat as your body requires, you move and you celebrate both. Being alive comes with a need to eat, yes, but we need to rewrite the terms. Actually no… we need to remember them.
One tomato bite at a time. Or beans if you prefer. Or a new
potato, cooked to perfection. This kind of indulgency never comes with fear,
but with gratefulness.