Food

More with Much Less: An Anorexic’s Guide to Mennonite Cooking

Since becoming Mennonite, I have thought more about the ethics of consumption than I had previously as a generically evangelical Christian. I have been challenged to analyze the impact of how I spend my money (and how much I spend), where I shop for clothes, what food I eat, etc. I imagine that–like me–many Mennonites (and other Anabaptists and fellow Christians) had these issues brought to their attention through such classics as Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger or Doris Janzen Longacre’s More with Less cookbook. While I have found the Mennonite emphasis on simplicity to be one of its more attractive (albeit challenging) features, it wasn’t until I met my anorexic friend, Michelle, at our local Mennonite church that I saw the potentially damaging effects this teaching could have on those who already struggle with food-related issues. For those interesting in thinking through these difficult questions, I commend to you Michelle’s new blog, More with Much Less: An Anorexic’s Guide to Mennonite Cooking. In the meantime, here’s hoping that she’ll invite me over for some of Janzen Longacre’s recipes!

Bioregionalism, peacemaking, fig trees and vines

Tree in Pasture at Sunset

Cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled

Earlier this month I was talking with my friend Chris about a talk he heard last weekend by Ched Myers on bio-regionalism. One of the key concepts from the presentation was: “You can’t save what you don’t love and you can’t love what you don’t know.” In other words, instead of thinking of abstract ideas like “environmentalism” we need to get to know our own place or “bio-region”.

Ched touches on similar themes in his recent blog post titled with a similar quote: “We Won’t Save Places We Don’t Love…”. He compares the way suburbanites relate to their place to the way farmers and indigenous communities relate to the land they live and work on.

Chris has been working with Christian Peacemaker Team’s local partners in Colombia since August 2008 when he graduated from the first training that I helped with after joining CPT. He pointed out that our local partners are not struggling for abstract concepts like justice or environmentalism. They are fighting for places that they know intimately. (more…)

Grace for donations

Three weeks ago I was at Freakstock, the annual Festival of Jesus Freaks, a German protestant church made up primarily by punks, hippies and other subcultural types. It was a great experience and I’m a bit sad I didn’t go there before. It is exactly this community of alternative and happy Christians my age I’ve been looking for. All the other people I could relate to were either my parents’ generation, non-Christian, or people who lived elsewhere – like the readers of YAR.
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A review of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

This review is cross-posted from La Fleur Epuisee

This week, I finished this lovely book. I’m a bit behind on the bandwagon, but I’m glad I finally got around to it: finishing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle left me feeling challenged and alive and hopeful.

The book is Kingsolver’s account of a year’s experiment in local eating. She, along with her husband and two daughters, set out to fully occupy their Virginia land, gardening and raising animals, canning and freezing, cooking from scratch, and purchasing what they could not make (with a few exceptions) from sources as nearby as possible. It’s a beautifully written narrative, combining experience and research. Kingsolver’s husband Steven Hopp provides succinct (and sometimes zingy) sidebars on the politics and science of U.S. food economics, and her daughter Camille ends many of the chapters with a young person’s perspective and suggested recipes.

This is the sort of book that makes me long for a bit of land, a laundry line, a nice wide pantry, a chest freezer. Its compelling writing and solid argumentation leave me wondering how most of us continue to deceive ourselves that our participation in widespread profit-driven food practices has no lasting negative effects. The book doesn’t browbeat, but it certainly leaves me with a heavy sense of my responsibility–our responsibility–as well as our possibilities. Does our attachment to convenient, out-of-season, processed, cheap foods in the U.S. damage our own health, the health of soil, the health of local economies (in the States and across the globe), the health of global economies, the health of vulnerable migrant workers, and the health of the planet–thus the health of our children and theirs? Absolutely. Are we all free to up and leave our urban or suburban lives to go claim a bit of homestead? Not really. But are there things we can do? Absolutely. (more…)

Goldman Sachs, the global food crisis and faith in corporations

Last week, Harper’s magazine published an article by looking at the link between the unabashed greed of big financial firms and the 2007–2008 world food crisis. The crisis resulted in the starvation of thousands, hunger for millions and riots in some of the countries hit hardest. For a window into the pain of an individual family in Ethiopioa, see this article in the Independent.

Kaufman’s article includes an in depth look at the history of commodity markets and futures trading and detailed explanation of how recent “innovations” led to a dramatic rise in food prices. The bottom line of Kaufman’s allegation is: big financial corporations manipulated the food market for their own profit and millions of people went without food as a result.

It’s worth noting that Kaufman is not critiquing the over all system of wheat futures. He is specifically pointing to “innovations” by the financial industry that created a “food bubble.”

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Jesus Radicals! Anarchism and Christianity

New Heaven, New Earth: Anarchism and Christianity Beyond Empire
August 14 & 15, 2009

Location
Caritas Village
2509 Harvard Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38112

This year’s anarchism and Christianity conference, hosted by Jesus Radicals, will look squarely at the economic and ecological crisis facing the globe, and point to signs of hope for creativity, for alternative living, for radical sharing, for faithfulness, for a new way of being. We are living in a karios moment that will either break us or compel us to finally strive for a new, sane way of life. The question we face at this pivotal time is not if our empires will fall apart, but when they will fall–and how will we face it? We hope you will join the conversation. (more…)

The Trouble with Thanksgiving: A Reflection by Nekeisha

Thanksgiving makes me nervous.

For years, I’ve gotten a sinking feeling in my stomach as the month of November draws to a close and this day looms. On the one hand, Thanksgiving is about joy and gratitude. It is a time when I travel to see family and friends, welcome a few days of rest and look forward to the holiday season. In my mind, I know it is a good thing to have a day where the sole emphasis is to give thanks to God for all God has done. I also appreciate the opportunity to celebrate all my loved ones do and are to one another.

And yet Thanksgiving reminds me of a beautiful but altogether itchy sweater. Sure it looks good on the rack in my closet. It is slimming, well-made, gorgeous color—everything you could hope for in a sweater. But if I put it on I’m guaranteed to spend the whole day tugging, scratching and feeling downright uncomfortable. Try as I might, I can’t shake that weird feeling about that good ole holiday. It gets to the point where weeks in advance I’m trying to come up with other things to say besides “Happy Thanksgiving.” And since “Happy Day Off” doesn’t cut it I go ahead and mutter the greeting anyway, wheels still turning for a suitable substitute. (more…)

Newark, DE & Elkton, MD

For the past 4 weeks I was rotating at Christiana Care Hospital in Newark, DE.  During that time I was able to reconnect with a high school friend of mine who lives in the area.  He & his wife introduced me to a group of people with Anabaptist roots/connections/interests who have been meeting together informally and hope to start a church of sorts given the lack of a Mennonite church in their area (that’s not in Wilmington and/or in a “conservative” conference).

Anyway, last Monday I joined them for dinner & fellowship and learned of their interest in finding more participants and connecting with other congregations in the area (and in the Lancaster and Atlantic Coast Conferences) as they pursue organizing more formally as a church.  The person who has been the catalyst of the group is Scott Calkins – a former U.S. Marine turned Anabaptist who lives with his wife in Elkton, MD.  For anyone interested, they have a website & blog at the following links:

http://www.paxmin.com
http://www.paxmin.com/blog/blog.htm

Teach A Man To Fish?

Pam Wilson of Operation Mercy wrote an insightful article about the proverb,
“Catch a man a fish you feed him a meal,
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

http://pastoralblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/teach-man-to-fish.html

Besides the fact that the proverb is sexist, it holds many false assumptions of how the poor should be helped. I have always had a problem with the proverb because it assumes that one should ignore the immediate need. But Ms. Wilson has a better overall approach.

Steve K

Midwest going through hard times

The housing bubble has way-popped over here in Elkhart. There are a ton of houses around here for sale and no one with enough money (even with subsidies) to buy them. And last week an organization that supports housing for low-income folks had to close its doors as the result of circumstances, no operating costs and its board looking out for its own interests instead of the common good. So many foreclosures! :(

So for the folks in the Elkhart MVS unit, it’s been a tough week. But the South central community is still strong…and we believe, getting stronger.

One way we are getting stronger is that we are learning to support one another through these tough times. The NY Times said that foreclosure rates are on the rise, and if communities aren’t organized to pull together, the vacant houses will rip gaping holes in its social fabric. We are also reaching across ethnic boundaries, and learning together to look beyond capitalist assets to enrich our lives. Two examples of the budding community economy: (more…)

Biblical Message for the Day

Feeding the Hungry

I serve as a full-time volunteer with an agency that coordinates homeless services. I thought a reflection on poverty would be apt, particularly given that we don’t have a “poverty” category yet on this blog.
Nehemiah 5 (NIrV)

1 Some men and their wives cried out against their Jewish brothers and sisters. 2 Some of them were saying, “We and our sons and daughters have increased our numbers. Now there are many of us. We have to get some grain so we can eat and stay alive.”

3 Others were saying, “We’re being forced to sell our fields, vineyards and homes. We have to do it to buy grain. There isn’t enough food for everyone.”

4 Still others were saying, “We’ve had to borrow money. We needed it to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 We belong to the same family lines as the rest of our people. Our sons and daughters are as good as theirs. But we’ve had to sell them off as slaves. Some of our daughters have already been made slaves. But we can’t do anything about it. That’s because our fields and vineyards now belong to others.” (more…)

YAR meetup in San Jose

Eric, Tim, and I just realized that the three of us will be at the Mennonite Church USA Churchwide Convention in San Jose in July. We also figured that a few other contributors and readers might be as well. So, we want to have a little gathering with anyone that wants to show. We are leaning towards supper on Wednesday, July 4.

If you are going to be in San Jose for the MCUSA Convention, please leave a little comment here to tell us and we can work on plans for a gathering.
Also, you might consider coming to the Bay Area a few days early (if you haven’t already gotten tickets) to attend a weekend conference in San Francisco. It is being planned by Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests’ Supportive Communities Network in conjunction with First Mennonite Church of San Francisco and MennoNeighbors (a group that could fit the nickname OAR pretty well – don’t be offended Lin if you are reading this). For more information on the conference check out the BMC website.

Vessels of the Holy Spirit or Agents of Entropy?

He who knew nothing other than creatures would have no need for thinking of sermons, for each creature is full of God and is a book [about God].
-Meister Eckhart

High school physics classes generally teach something about the Laws of Thermodynamics, which can be summed up, more or less, as the following: Energy can be transformed — for example, from electricity into light, as in a light bulb, or vice versa, as in a solar panel — but energy can never be destroyed. It does, however, inevitably change into less and less usable forms. In other words, there is always a bit of waste. When electricity is turned into light in an incandescent bulb, a bit of the energy is lost as heat. As energy changes form, it tends to become less useful, a process called entropy.

Physics Lesson Two: A couple of decades ago, physicists and cosmologists had basically agreed that the universe started with the Big Bang, when the entire cosmos exploded from a point microscopically small, and that the universe would end with everything collapsing back onto itself in what they termed the Big Crunch. The theory was appealing for a number of reasons, not least of which is the symmetry of explosion and collapse. A lot of religious folks found the theory interesting because it seemed to mirror the traditional stories of Genesis and Apocalypse. (more…)

Vegetarianism: A freak hippie fad or a way to be a radical Christian?

What’s the matter? Now that we know our conversations are to be summarized in another venue, we stop talking? I hope everyone’s just busy being radical in their offline lives.

The real reason for my post is to talk about vegetarianism and animal rights/welfare. This is another topic on which many Christians (perhaps especially Mennonites in rural areas) have only vague notions of why anyone would decide not to eat meat. It seems silly, pagan or perhaps even anti-Anabaptist when you’re talking about “meat canned in the name of Jesus for the missionaries to eat.”

It’s with some trepidation that I write this. I don’t want to come off as a zealot who believes everyone has to do as I do. There’s just so much misinformation out there it’s hard to know where or how to begin. It would certainly be encouraging to discover YARs aren’t scared to talk about something that is at once philosophical and immensely practical for those of us who eat three meals a day. (more…)