Sunday, April 29, 2007

Get thee behind me, Fat

Thou shalt place outside thy door a vat of fat. And this shall be a sign unto the angel of heart disease to pass over thy house. Purge thy dwelling of saturated fat (polyunsaturated is OK in smallish amounts) and purify thy house. Set outside your dwelling, then, the vat of fat to signify your purity, so that you may be holy and live long in the land. - Hezekiah 12:33

It all started years ago, when I (Deb) read the book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. And now we've come to this. Quasi-biblical rituals designed to appease the diet gods. Well, that's what it looks like, anyway. What really happened is that reading Fast Food Nation caused me to give up fast food (not a big sacrifice for me) and then to become more interested in the politics of food. That led me to design my English 101 class this year around the topic, and that led to further reading and many research papers on the topic from my students.

That all led to inviting my honors English 101 class for dinner on Friday last, with the students bringing various foods, both virtuous and un-, to share around. One pair of students brought banana wontons, which required deep frying, and that led to a pan full of hot oil set outside the door to cool, which I of course promptly forgot about for a couple days. So the quasi-biblical ritual was not intentional. But there it is.

All this study of food politics has brought about, as I call it, "collateral damage" in our household. In other words, we are actually eating healthier these days. We've been especially fond of the "super foods" concept, which involves emphasizing those foods that are especially high in all kinds of invisible, magical nutrients like betacarotenes and flavonoids. They also taste good.

We're not "food nazis" by any means. But here's some recommended reading, with the warning that you may find yourself, someday soon, carefully perusing the sweet potatoes at the local farmer's market. And putting pots of oil outside your door.

Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation
Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma
Michael Pollan, Unhappy Meals
Bryant and Anna Lappe, Grub

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Grading Gets my Goat

Debra and I are spending a lot of time this month grading student papers. A recent batch from her English 101 class (theme: the politics of food) had students reporting on what happened when they went to various places of food production -- farms and factories and so forth. Meanwhile, my students were writing about their worship experiences at churches whose worship was supposed to be "decidedly different" from their normal Sunday service.

The other day we were discussing with each other the similar responses our students had to things they'd seen on their field trips. You know the old saying about sausage tasting good, but you don't want to know how they make it? Turns out you could say the same thing about liturgy.

And how food is never quite as clean as you'd like it to be, even when it goes through the appropriate steps? Same thing with people and church.

But we laughed together at the student of Deb's who remarked about the farm she went to, and the goat who, at a moment when she wasn't paying attention, ate the sheet of paper on which she had written her notes.

"Not likely," said Deb, "that you'll find a student who ran into goat troubles on a worship field trip."

"Well," I responded, "I suppose that depends on how seriously they took my suggestion that they seek out a worship experience 'decidedly different' from their usual fare. I can think of a few contexts in which goats play a prominent role in worship."

Alas, no one ventured quite that far afield.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sweet Potato Sunrise

There's a frustrated artist in the family.

UPDATE: "Dad! It's a sun-SET!"