America’s Eating Habits are Un-American

Years ago I read the book, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 and it was one of the very few books I have kept.   I recently saw it again on my bookshelf and started reading it again. As specified in the title, the book is based on a diary of a woman who was a midwife during colonial times in what is today the State of Maine. There are many interesting things in the book but one thing that sticks in my mind is the variety of foods the colonists ate. They ate an incredible variety of vegetables and grew most of them themselves.

As a child growing up in central Maine, we had a vegetable garden and also ate a variety of fruit and veg. I’m not sure it was as varied as in colonial times but it was certainly more varied compared to now. I am often shocked at how  little modern-day Americans eat fresh produce. According to the USDA, Americans today eat very little fruits and vegetables.   If we consider what early Americans ate as being  ‘American’  then we can conclude that our diets today are ‘un-American’…right?      It may sound very Aristotelian but it seems that since 9/11 Americans are really into  ‘being American’  and spend an  inordinate amount of time trying to define what that really is.  At any rate…

Today in cold States like Maine,  much of our fruits and veg are now trucked in from warmer States which makes them expensive at certain times of the year.  People now eat more meat, fried or fatty carbohydrates and some children of today don’t even know what a tomato is. That’s just plain wrong AND the thing that tops it off is that people don’t want to know, don’t want to be healthy, don’t want their children to be healthy even to the point where they allow laws to be made to keep themselves and others unhealthy.

 In the America I grew up in during the 70’s, we were taught in school about vegetables and the 4-4-2-6 idea of eating a variety of foods. That same program was subsidized by the same U.S. government that today does just the opposite. Talk about living on Mars!! It’s not just un-American – it’s un-earthly.

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A Vault of New Words…do you know them?

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Just saw an interview of two lexicographers who were on BBC news that were talking about words that are used but not yet in the dictionary. Evidently, there is a vault where lexicographers add words recording when and how they were used in case the words take off and become a normal part of our vocabulary. If they do catch on they are then put into the dictionary. Seems logical right? But, while I was watching I had the old computer on and googled some of the examples they gave. Some of them came up on the Urban Dictionary site(www.urbandictionary.com) and was totally wrong. Of course Urban Dictionary is just a bit of fun but I found the examples the lexicographers gave more interesting and funny than those on the Urban Dictionary site. Here are some examples….

Freegan – Someone who goes around looking for free things. Examples would be, taking bottles and cans out of trash bins or searching dumpsters for useful things.

Earworm – A song stuck in your head (or ear).

Furgle – When you search in your pocket or handbag for something.

Worfing – Surfing the internet while at work.

Precuperation – The act of collecting the items you need for recuperating from an illness.

Gobletygoop – A yucky substance that is not yet defined.

Bumster – Jeans that are cut to hang low on the butt.

I personally love new words and love how creative people are with language. I thought ‘gobletygoop’ was already an official word but I guess we have to wait on that one. Maybe those lexicographers should start their own ‘new word’ site so we can look them up but then that would create a paradox so that probably won’t happen.

The Great Story of Dunkirk

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Stranded soldiers at Dunkirk

Although I like reading historical books I’ve never really liked reading about war. The reasons people go to war are always the same, money, power, greed and it’s always incredibly destructive. Since living in Europe where countless wars have been fought I’ve seen first-hand how destructive war is. That said, there are always a few stories that inspire me and the story of Dunkirk is one of them.

Many people may know the basic story. After fighting long and hard the British and French were pushed by the German army to the beaches of Dunkirk which is on the coast of France.  It was a big defeat for the allies. The hungry and exhausted troops retreat to the beach but there was no way for them to evacuate. The harbor at Dunkirk was destroyed and large war ships could not get to the beach. The 340,000 soldiers were stuck with German artillery constantly bombarding them and no where  for them to go. In comes Operation Dynamo!

The plan of rescue was called Operation Dynamo. Everyone in England who had a boat of some kind was asked to help rescue the men. It may seem like a small thing but these boats were not built for long sea voyages and the captains of these small vessels had no military training. These were ordinary people and the boats were a mix-match of fishing boats, tug boats and week-end boats that would make the ocean trip across the channel. With no warning and no training thousands of people came to the rescue.

What many people may not know is, when the little boats got to Dunkirk they were met with German artillery overhead. The soldiers were exhausted and desperate to get out. Getting into the boats was not easy. The water was rough and deep and many boats capsized. The little boats made countless trips back and forth from the beach to the ships and many even made the cross-channel trip repeatedly to get the men to safety.

When I see the pictures I am amazed at the number of men on the beach and how the boats were so full of people. Every inch had people on it. We see the destruction of buildings, vehicles and people. But what we don’t see in a picture is the smell of burning oil and gunpowder or the rotting of dead bodies. We don’t hear the shower of gunfire overhead or feel the hunger and thirst of sitting on a beach for a week with wounded friends beside you.

Today there will be a reenactment of the rescue at Dunkirk to mark the 70th anniversary of this heroic time. Some of the original little boats will be making the trip in memory of Operation Dynamo.

Little boats ready to set out for Dunkirk

Pink Tulips on Mother’s Day

Today is mother’s day and it’s also my son’s birthday. Here on Mars, the birthday person gives a little something to everyone called ‘trakteering’. My son was turning 20 so I didn’t think he would want to ‘trakteer’ but on the way to church he said he wanted to stop at the gas station and get a little something to give everyone.I pulled into the a gas station and my son went in to get some candies.

While I was sitting in the car waiting, a boy about 13 years old came out of the store with something to drink and a sandwich. He meandered a little around the door and started eating his bread and looked at the flowers that were in buckets just outside the store door. The boy looked at the flowers turned then looked at the flowers again. I could see he was thinking about those flowers. I wondered if he was thinking about them for his mother on this mother’s day then it happened. He took a bunch of pink tulips and went back into the store to pay for them. He came out of the store with tulips in one hand and his sandwich and drink in the other and seemed to have a spring in his step as he walked down the street. I don’t even know this boy but I knew his mom would be proud of him. I certainly was.

Health care and hypocrisy go hand in hand.

Since living on Mars I have at times felt embarrassed that the U.S. is so hypocritical about health care.  As a child of a social worker I had heard some pretty horrid stories of hardworking people who just couldn’t get by. Now after living in a foreign country for so long I can not understand why Americans can’t get their head around the notion that people need to have basic health care. They don’t even protect the million of insured citizens who pay for insurance but still go bankrupt when they become ill.

My embarrassment stems from the fact that the U.S. was one of the founders of the United Nations but does not adhere to the International Health Constitution which the U.N. has written. Seems like they can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk.

http://www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf