Breastfeeding Roundup

At the top of the list for weirdness in breastfeeding news this week, the UK’s biggest restaurant, Cosmo, charged a woman 3 pounds for her exclusively breastfed 6 week son to “occupy space” in the restaurant. To their credit, the restaurant apologized, indicating that the employee who charged the fee was in error.Next up, protests were scheduled to be held in Paw Paw, Mich., yesterday, following the incident in which a woman, Natalie Hegedus, was called out by Judge Robert Hentchel for breastfeeding her baby in court. “Do you think that’s appropriate in here?”  The baby was sick, she said, and he was hungry. And, for the record, breastfeeding in courtrooms is perfectly legal.

{I wonder, would the judge have been upset had Ms. Hegedus been bottle-feeding the baby?}

And in both the Daily Mail and Cafe Mom highlighted the unusual but admirable effort of adoptive mothers to breastfeed their adopted babies–sometimes with the help of medications, sometimes with supplemental feeding systems. Mothers who’ve breastfed adopted babies cite the desire for physical bonding–as well as health benefits–in explaining their decisions.

Rounding out the week’s breastfeeding news is this story in the Washington Post: Rhode Island has become the first state in the Union to eliminate those free bags of formula from its hospitals. Just 38% of RI mothers nurse their babies 6 months after birth, compared to 44% nationwide. Rhode Island’s health director hopes that ending the formula giveaways will bring the state’s breastfeeding rates up. Giving away formula in hospitals and at doctor’s offices sends a mixed signal, many health and lactation professionals say–with their mouths doctors and nurses say “breast is best,” but when they hand you a bag of free formula, it looks a lot like an endorsement.

And that’s the week in breastfeeding news! Clearly, breastfeeding sometimes complicated, sometimes messy, sometimes embarrassing yet still very, very worth it.

{You can read previous breastfeeding posts here (Breastfeeding and Justice) and here (Advertising Formula Works…But for Whom?}

Hungry NYC Children and an Advent Project

The New York City Coalition Against Hunger released a report last week indicating that nearly a half million children living within the five boroughs of New York City (Manhattan, Staten Island, Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn) are living in families that can’t afford an adequate supply of food. That is one quarter of all children in NYC. The report also noted that food pantries and soup kitchens have seen a 12% increase in the number of people served in the past year, on top of an increase of 7% two years ago and 21% three years ago.

In other words, more and more people in New York City–something like 1 out of every 6–are hungry. But in the past year, 59 pantries and kitchens closed their doors, unable to run because they’d run out of funds. And that, in turn, happened because the Emergency Food and Shelter Program–a federal program that helps to fund hundreds of New York City’s feeding programs, not to mention thousands across the country–was cut back by 40% as part of the budget deal this year. Additionally, as an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle notes, the majority of pantries and kitchens have received fewer and fewer private donations.

Here, in the shadow of the financial district whose gambling caused the meltdown, one out of every four kids live in families that can’t buy enough food, and both their government and those who can afford to help them out cut the funding that fills in the gaps? Is it any wonder people took to the streets?

Other reports from around the country–like this one at NPR–confirm that the situation in New York City is far from unique. So consider: what can you do to help? What I’m going to do is this: each day of Advent I’ll set aside a small portion of money–like an Advent calendar in reverse–and at the end of Advent I’ll give what I’ve collected to a food bank. It won’t be much more than a symbolic act, but it is what I can do. I hope that, in this way, anticipating Christ’s coming can become an opportunity for loving the people he loves in the way that he did.

Want to join me?

My New Favorite Cookbook

Okay, so well before “buy nothing day” I bought myself a present: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Food Magazine. I love Cook’s Illustrated (though I’ve never subscribed) and the previous cookbooks from America’s Test Kitchen, which also produces the magazine, although I don’t own any of them.

There are a few reasons why the recipes, magazines, and books from America’s Test Kitchen appeal to me–first, I love how obsessively they test each recipe. Have you had recipes from cookbooks fail? I certainly have. And let me tell you–it’s not always your fault. What I love about the recipes from ATK is that they’ve been tested and re-tested to achieve a very particular result (hence the very different recipes–ingredients and techniques–to produce soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies versus thin and crispy chocolate chip cookies.)

Related to this, each recipe comes with an explanation for why it’s formulated as it is. I love knowing why a recipe works as it does–why it’s important (or unimportant) to cream the butter and sugar first when making muffins, why to use a certain variety of flour, why to cook things over a certain temperature. It seems to me that knowing some of the theory behind the choices of ingredients and techniques makes a better cook, and ATK resources provide just that.

Much of that theory includes science, which is the third reason I love this new cookbook. I was never too keen on science in school (except for biology, because I liked dissecting things and learning about genetics and the digestive system) but this cookbook delivers just enough practical cooking science so as to make me take delight in the earthy job of cooking.

As Robert Farrar Capon wrote:

“Creation is vast in every direction. It is as hugely small as it is large. The number of water-filled interstices in my three tablespoonfuls of flour runs the interstellar distances a fair second; the appeal to size [implying that people, small in relation to the universe’s magnitude, are insignificant] is a self-canceling argument. Plying my whisk, I know that what goes on here is neither less mysterious nor less marvelous that what happens there…saucepan in hand, I refuse to be snowed.”

{Fr. R.F. Capon, The Supper of the Lamb}

So all that to say, I heartily recommend this cookbook. Take up, read, and follow closely–with lots of love and attention!–and the results are very likely to bring you (and others!) joy.

And So It Is Advent

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land;
deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the Lord will rise,
and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawning.

Your gates will always be open;
by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the Lord,
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land,
ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation,
and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day;
by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.

{Canticle 11; The Third Song of Isaiah, RSV}

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Spirit of Food

It’s been a while since I’ve featured a book for Weekend Eating Reading, so up this week for your consideration is Leslie Leyland Fields’ edited volume The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God. There are essays by Ann Voskamp, Lauren Winner, Kirstin Vander Giessen-Riestma, and LaVonne Neff, among many others.

{LaVonne Neff’s–“My (Self-Righteous) Food-Stamp Fast,” which is about her 6-week experiment in living on a food-stamp budget, was one of my favorites; as was Kirstin Vander Giessen-Riestma’s, which was about deciding whether “eating or abstaining is the highest act of love,” in other words–negotiating personal and ethical food preferences when eating with others. But they are all very, very much worth reading.}

Plus, each essay ends with a recipe!

If you are new to thinking about the intersection of faith and food–or even if you’re not, you will want to put this on your to-read list.

You can listen to an audio interview with Leslie Leyland Fields {here.}

You can read an essay by Leslie that appeared in Christianity Today {here.}

And, of course, you can purchase Leslie’s book {here.}

Enjoy the weekend!