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Entries in guest-blogger (2)


Guest Post: Summertime -- And the Living Ain’t Always So Easy

This post comes courtesy of my friend Lisa P, a foodie and chef extraordinaire! She picked up and ran with a Google+/Facebook status I put up earlier about my intent to do a "Water Run," bringing bottles of cold water to some of the folks down here in D.C. who can't escape indoors or buy water -- some of D.C.'s large homeless population. (For the record, at 2:30 it is 102 degrees Fahrenheit, heat index at 121). Ok, so she's giving me some credit, but no reason not to push this message far and wide!

Summertime -- And the Living Ain’t Always So Easy

Today when I logged on to Facebook, I was greeted by a status reading:

"Want a cheap and easy way to do a good deed today? Buy some cold water and share it with people who can’t get indoors — those living or spending the day on the streets, at the parks, or in the alleys behind our houses and offices. Thanks to Sam for this great idea!"
But seriously, how amazing is this idea? It is so simple, but could make such a difference in someone’s life. This summer has been a scorcher, especially here in Washington, DC (heat index of 116 degrees F RIGHT NOW!?). All of us lucky enough to be relaxing in our air-conditioned apartments, browsing the web (reading my blog, of course) need to be careful in this heat, but don’t have too much to worry about. But think about all those people in the world who do not have a cool place to take shelter, or no access to drinking water. Do a good deed and if you see one of those people, buy them a bottle of water.

I challenge all of you reading this to go out and buy a pack of water bottles and hand them out!

Also, please spread the word! The more people who hear this idea, the more people we can help in the streets. I would like to give a special thanks to my friend who sparked this all with a Facebook status. Check out his blog, Hungry Sam for more food thoughts.

(Photo credit: Urban Canteen)


Vegan for a Week:

This post was written by a good friend and former colleague of mine, Daphne. I (Hungry Sam) am clearly not a vegan, nor do I aspire to be, and yet there remains the question of ethical, healthy eating, as well as the implicit challenge: Could I even do it? Daphne, who, as you will read, has experience with a restricted diet, takes this challenge. Read on!
(Also, I can tell you from experience, Daphne is right: Sitting down and eating a pound of baby carrots is an express train to one unfun stomach ache.)

Google Images "Vegan." Odd.
I am generally mindful of what I eat.  As an observant Jew, I don't mix milk and meat, I don't eat pork or shellfish, and I choose food that is certified kosher.  As someone who is relatively health conscious, I try to maintain a balanced diet and to make healthier choices about the foods that I eat.  And because I do my best to be an ethical consumer, I've been spending more time exploring local, organic, and other ethical and sustainable food options.  When it comes to food, I'm often thinking about how I can do better. 

I started thinking again about some of these questions - and the relationship among these concerns - after I heard Rabbi Yoffie deliver his 2009 Biennial Sermon, launching the URJ's Shulhan Yarok, Shulhan Tzedek (Green Table, Just Table) initiative. Rabbi Yoffie inspired a room of 3,000 Jews to think critically about how they eat and what foods they buy, and how these decisions impact our own health, the strength of our communities, and our global environment.  There are valuable lessons to be learned from this initiative, and synagogues and individuals continue to explore the various changes they can incorporate into their lifestyles (find out what leading synagogues are up to and what you can do on the Green Table, Just Table program bank).

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Oprah Winfrey caught my attention when she challenged her 378 person staff to embrace a vegan diet for a whole week.  Rabbi Yoffie had encouraged us to reduce our red meat intake, but Oprah was going further - no meat, chicken, fish, eggs or dairy.  Her staff took the challenge, and the testimonials about their "vegan week" experiences were entertaining, encouraging and inspiring.  The next day, I mentioned to a Rabbi David Saperstein how interested I was by the show. As I was describing the episode, I thought that experimenting with a vegan diet could be an interesting way to bring together all of my dietary requirements - kosher, healthy and ethical.  So he and I decided to challenge ourselves and to become vegan for one week too. 

Initially I found myself stressing over what the next week might look like: with my limited food choices, I might be hungry all the time, or fall into the French fry/cracker/potato chip trap.  So I decided to think about food a little more creatively, and made the conscious decision to eat as many whole/non-processed foods as possible.  I pureed my own hummus, made 2 different vegetable-based soups (zucchini and butternut squash-pear) and baked enough chocolate fudgy brownies to hold me through the week. (Feel free to ask me for my recipes.) I carried lots of nuts, fruits and vegetables to snack on.

To my surprise, I felt pretty good!  I wasn't hungry for a moment - probably because I was better prepared for meals than usual.  I felt (ahem) cleansed.  I felt healthy.   I discovered which fruits and vegetables worked for me, and which worked against me.  (Note to self, it's never a good idea to eat a pound of baby carrots in a single sitting.)  And as an added bonus, at the end of the week, I discovered that I lost four lbs. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking to become vegan.  This week-long experiment may have worked, but it wasn't easy. I avoided restaurants so I wouldn't be tempted by meat, and so that I wouldn't feel deprived as I coveted my friend's meal. I missed having milk in my cereal and in my coffee (neither soy nor almond milk did the trick for me).  I missed sharing a pizza with my kids.  I missed eating chili on Super Bowl Sunday.  I missed nibbling on the milk chocolate kisses that sit on my desk.  Even so, after eating vegan for a week, I am giving serious thought to changing some of my eating habits for the long-term -- maybe taking on a "Meatless Monday" and/or a "Tofu Tuesday." I can be an omnivore and still continue to be thoughtful about what I buy, how my food is prepared, and what I eat.

I have a newfound understanding of vegans and veganism - of the challenges of a restricted diet and the rewards of being more thoughtful and intentional about my food choices. I'll carry this week-long lesson with me for a long time to come.  How about you?  What changes have you considered making to your dietary lifestyle, and what motivates those changes?

This entry was originally posted at RACBlog.