Monday, April 18, 2011

Dear Jerry

Dear Jerry,

This summer I took your writing workshop at The Clearing.  I’ve since realized that many of the writing exercises you did with us were powerfully designed to shut down the left side of our brains to allow the creativity of the right side emerge.  It was so simple, so fast, an amazing experience.

You mentioned in the class that you just published a book called Cranberry Red.  It’s taken me a while, but the memory of your description of the book came popping up lately as my own work continues to uncover more examples of how our modern food and agriculture is failing us.

In Cranberry Red, you tell the story of a University Extension employee who loses his job and takes one with a private company that is working on a nutrition-enhanced cranberry.  All is well until evidence of harmful side effects starts to surface.  Should he expose his employer, lose his job again, and lose the opportunity to influence the company?

I bet you won’t take offense if I say that you are anything but a radical guy.  You too were on the Faculty of UW Extension for many years.  This book, however, tells the story in your warm and folksy and entertaining way, of what we’ve done and are doing to farmers and food.  Modern agriculture: hubris at the expense of nature. 

What I like best about your book is that it makes the economic and health tragedy that is emerging out of our food system into a personal story.  Food and health are personal.  I see this all of the time.  Our industrial food system keeps trying to make food into a widget, but people and the earth keep resisting.  No we haven’t figured out how to take the vagaries of weather out of supply.  No we haven’t successfully convinced consumers that buying food from a big food company like Kraft is safer than buying it from a local farmer. People want a personal relationship with their food and the people who make it.  People are also starting to think that maybe surrendering their physical health to “experts”, whose solution no matter what the problem is appears to be pills, may not be the best idea.  Nor is believing that humans can engineer foods that are better for us than natural foods. 

I created teraswhey to cause extraordinary change, not of the engineered kind, but of the natural kind, the kind where the food that can heal us comes in its natural form, from farmers we know and cheese makers who respect their craft. Teraswhey is a sort of antidote to Cranberry Red.  

Thank you for giving voice to something many of us have been experiencing for a long time!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Dear Sara

Dear Sara,

I started thinking about gluten again after you and I had a really wonderful dinner made by your husband, Jason, the chef at The Tavern restaurant in Garrison, NY.  Aromatic blood sausage made from scratch; we discovered it’s good for both of us because we’re iron deficient. I’ve been endeavoring to wean myself of iron pills; your acupuncturist told you to eat black foods.  Nutrition by color, it’s like painting a diet.  Then we start talking about your husband’s travails, trying to cook from local ingredients and keep the menu items affordable.  Is it off-putting to call blood sausage blood sausage?  Maybe aromatic loaf would be better?

Our conversation then turned to baking.  Jason uses flour milled by the baker at Wild Hive Bakery, which tends toward old grain varieties.  Apparently the old grains perform differently from commodity grains and Jason has a hard time finding people who can work with them successfully.  The Wild Hive guys say the same thing. 

Apparently we’ve intentionally hybridized wheat in a way that has increased the proportion of gluten in the grain.  We did this intentionally because gluten is where the protein lives in grains.  Bread, pizza dough, and bagels all perform better with high gluten flours.  Gluten also shows up in surprising places - on its own is also used to make imitation meat, fish, and as a stabilizer in foods like ketchup and ice cream.  All of this means we’re eating not just more carbohydrates than before but also that there is more gluten in our carbohydrates than ever before.  Could it be that the higher incidences of gluten intolerances is a result of overconsumption of gluten?
Or is it because of changes in processing?  In the old days, people often stored grains whole and milled them as they used them.  This left the bran intact, encircling the starch and the germ inside.  Once grains are milled, the oils in the germ can become rancid.  Commodity flours are milled in huge quantities that are stored as flour.  This means that they are far more likely to have rancidity problems.  Bakers who mill their own flour right before they make bread like the guys at Wild Hive in NY and Cress Spring in WI tell me they have customers that seek them out because they can tolerate their breads even though they are typically “gluten intolerant”.  Of course, true celiacs like my friend Linda cannot eat anyone’s gluten. 

It’s a hard road to eating gluten free in the US where so much of our food is processed and contains gluten – soups, soy sauce, candy, cold cuts, low and no fat engineered foods that do more harm than the fat would have.  I always thought it was odd that people would ask me whether my whey protein products had gluten in them – whey is a dairy product afterall so of course there is none in teraswhey.  Now that I understand how ubiquitous it is as a food processing agent, it makes more sense that people ask.

I’m glad that chef’s like Jason are experimenting with old grain varieties and teaching people to cook with them.  Lets hope that the increased attention doesn’t cause Big Ag and Big Food to start hybridizing the old grains to make them “better”.

Any chance Kamut is black? Oh, and tell Jason that I think it’s fine to call it blood sausage. 


Saturday, April 2, 2011

PS Linda

PS Linda,

As if bariatric surgery wasn’t reason enough for a personal connection to our company, you went on to be diagnosed with Celiac disease.  Celiacs like you are allergic to gluten.  Gluten is in just about all prepared foods and pretty much all foods in the carbohydrate group.  Because of your Celiac disease, you have small intestines that can’t digest gluten.  When you eat foods with gluten in them, your intestines are unable to break down the gluten and an autoimmune response is triggered that causes the villi in the small intestine to be damaged.  This causes malabsorption of critical nutrients by your body.

In the past, people thought that Celiacs would always present as malnourished – underweight and with a range of health issues associated with malnourishment -  and someone like you would never have been diagnosed.  Evidence is now surfacing that obese people may have a higher than average rate of celiac disease.  The mechanism is not well understood, but it appears to be related to how the body responds to malnourishment.  For survival of the species, our brains and bodies adjust to chronic changes in diet.  In the absence of nutrients, the brain causes the body to crave carbohydrates, which the body then stores as fat for use later.  The problem Celiacs have is there is no real starvation driving this and there is no time in the future when their bodies will absorb more nutrients, so they continue to crave food and gain weight, in some cases a lot of it. 

So there you were, Linda, in a high stress profession eating as a stress response and a biological response, and gaining weight because, paradoxically, your body wasn’t getting enough nutrients.  All the while you were fighting for the legal rights for women in particular, you were feeling the negative body image, discrimination, and physical effects of obesity.  It makes me wonder just how many people I know with weight problems are actually Celiacs, and how their lives would be different if they knew and were using teraswhey.

Gastric bypass surgery doesn’t cure Celiac disease; only a completely gluten free diet can relieve its symptoms.   Because gluten is almost ubiquitous in our modern diet of manufactured foods, eradicating it from our diets is very difficult.  And the incidence of Celiac disease seems to be increasing.  Much research still needs to be done to determine whether there is in fact an increased rate of incidence or just more diagnosis.  Some practitioners I know are beginning to think it could be exacerbated by the increased presence of not just manufactured foods but also ubiquitous biologically engineered foods like corn that are either in everything or fed to everything. When these things end up ubiquitously in our diets, our guts have to deal with more and more substances that they don’t recognize as food.  Eating.  It used to be something easy and nourishing and joyous.  Now somehow what we’ve done to our farms and our food and ourselves has made it complicated. 

Linda, every day you get to deal with the puzzle of how to get enough protein without eating any gluten. Whey protein is not only a source of a lot of the protein you need, it is also the most bioavailable and most readily absorbed protein for your body.  This means teraswhey is great for bariatric surgery patients and for Celiacs, in short, a simple food that’s perfect for you.  Maybe the universe wanted you to be part of teraswhey because you were going to need it as a foundation of your diet for the rest of your life, and because it would give you a way to share your story with the thousands of people who have been on the same health journey you have.

We get to change the world, one shake at a time.  I can’t thank you enough for sharing this journey with me.

With love,