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Help! The Dog Ate My Dinner!

WAR – isn’t our culture comfortable with war? War on Drugs, War on Cancer, War on Poverty, War on Terrorism, War on Viruses – If this blog were titled War on Bad Food, it would click into today’s gestalt without a seam. Only one problem – experts, observers and victims – all – have seen no decline in the objects of War. Shouldn’t drugs, cancer, poverty, terrorism and viruses know that civilized people have ganged up on them and all their works, and slink away, out of sight and away from harm?

Drugs, cancer, poverty, terrorism and viruses – it’s a motley crew – one collection of chemicals, one metabolic disfunction, two unwanted results of modern economies, and one by-product of life – and the techniques of war have failed on all of them. It reminds Raw Tibicos of a dog we once had, a large Bernese Mountain Dog with a dominant personality. A dominant personality – in a dog – or a drug, or a disease, or a social problem – means that the dog enjoys challenging your status quo more than he enjoys praise or being a good team member. The maxim, “Any attention is good attention,” was written by a dominant dog. . . and perhaps perfected by The War on X, where bad news brings in more funding?

People think of peace as the opposite of war – but it is a lot more than that – peace is actually an active verb. Just as war requires both material and a certain way of thinking, so peace has its own infrastructure and peculiar ways of thinking. If war is two stags locking horns and wrestling for victory, then peace is each stag with his own grazing area and family to raise. It can be difficult to understand ourselves by simply gazing into the mirror; what is hard to see in ourselves can be easy to understand when watching other beings do the same thing. Let’s continue by looking at the household dog; the dominant Berner, mentioned earlier.

Picture yourself, hungry, sitting down to a fabulous meal – featuring @RawTibicos veggie mixes and water kefir, available here: soupkefir.ca – and a 120 pound dog, clad in the Berner dinner jacket of black back fur and white fur necktie, sits down next to you and calmly begins chewing on the table! Just in case you haven’t noticed, he leaves his jaws locked on the table, swivels his eyes toward yours, full eye contact, and gives the table a challenging bite. Dinner is perfectly cooked, the absolute right temperature for eating, smells are steaming up from the plate, the water kefir glass is frosted, and your loved dog is commanding your mad attention, because he thinks that your hunger is stronger than your desire for a well-behaved dog. Your Berner has nothing of importance to lose, but if you dash after him, then your dinner might get lost to the Golden Retriever on the other side, slyly pretending to be asleep! Isn’t this exactly what the War on Drugs, Cancer, et al, feels like?

This is a blog about bringing spirituality back to food, and so of course, the answer lies in the perfection of the human spirit. It is true that sometimes spirituality is spoken of as war. Wars are famously bad for the pleasures of the table – so we will use the metaphor of a ladder – which leads much better food.

At the bottom of the ladder is our old rival War – choosing teams, finding weapons, trash talk, it’s all about “I need”, and “You must”. We are good, they are bad – we don’t need to say much here, as our culture is stuck on this rung. Here is the hero who smacks the bad Berner, the dog with the dominant character, who already has his teeth out for the table. Things escalate from there, to the delight of the golden retriever.

Next on the ladder – spoiler alert, this ladder only has three rungs – is neutrality. Neutrality hangs on the rung of freely-entered into contracts, trade, negotiation. I’ll trade what you want, to get from you, what I want. On this level we have the saint who comes prepared with dog biscuits. One for the Golden, for being good, and one for the Berner who has now moved his mouth from chewing wood to drool on the biscuit in your hand. The saint hands Dominant Dog his biscuit; trade made, dinner gets eaten hot – at least until the Berner wants another biscuit. Everyone feels good at this level – the dogs got biscuits, dinner got eaten hot, the saint feels smug, and so does the Berner. Sound familiar? Badness had its reward – neutrality was maintained – good had something on account, too. There is a better option, but there is also a worse one – things could descend to war later in the year.

We at Raw Tibicos prefer the view from the peak, so let’s keep climbing. On the top rung, love reigns alone. Not “peace and love”, which brings up visions of irresponsibility, youth, trampled lawns, loud music, and indifferent meals. This is a love based on experience, and strength – the kind of love that good neighbours have. This is the love that can give for no reason, for no expectation, simply because love has enough to share. This is the love that leads us to have dogs in the first place, and belongs to the world of extra zucchini, checking when the house next door is empty, watching out for your friends when they have drunk too much, helping someone else to a benefit that you won’t share. On this level, our neighbour-character deescalates by looking eyeball to eyeball back at the Berner, taking a huge bite of the steaming succulent dinner, conveying to the dog by energy, attention and pleasure, the knowledge that the food on the plate is much better than the dry wood of the table.

There are dogs who would react to changing the focus, by biting more than the table. A relationship of love had already been built between this dog and the owner, and so the Berner, unable to have attention on command, with no answer to his challenge, released the table and lay under it.

Some people yearn to climb the ladder themselves, and others fight to bring everyone to their level. It can be so hard to climb the ladder – that many of us who have climbed, don’t want to step back down – I mean, those of us who have educated our palates to proper food are reluctant to step back to junk. However, is that a reason to circle the wagons, and refuse to share what we know about healthy, clean, delicious and nutritious food? Some people prefer stale chips and cheap beer, and we cannot pull them to where they do not want to go! Having dinner with this group means accepting stale chips and cheap beer, maybe without complaint. Others are looking up the ladder, hoping for help climbing to a better spiritual relationship with food.

Wisdom lies in knowing that the ladder exists, descending if needed, climbing back when done, and enjoying the view from the top. This is real food spirituality! How simple, to grow a better world, through love and sharing the gifts of our souls, redirecting attention from what is lacking, to the extra in our gardens! Why should those who love war, be able to keep down those of us who prefer to climb, for ever?

In this blog, some of those looking to climb are not even people – how does the story of the dogs’ dinner end? Yes – to answer the question – after releasing the table when redirected, being a good dog throughout the rest of the meal, both the Berner and the Golden got table scraps. Much better than dry wood! As one memorable vet said, many years ago, “Dogs are not like us – they need vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins.” ?? This vet was advocating commercial kibble – perhaps not knowing better food exists?

We began this discussion with the thought of love, rather than war, and before closing it, Raw Tibicos feels that one more animal metaphor might be appropriate. Love is more complicated than war. War is harm, and that can take many forms – monosodium glutamate, corn syrup, antibiotics left in the meat, trans-fats, glyphosate residue, dyes that cause anxiety, etc – war involves impediments. War only exists on the bottom of the ladder. Love, however, has levels. Love at the bottom of the ladder is the love of the wolf for the sheep, the love of the master for his slave, the love of convenient junk food. This is a selfish love; and being human, we have probably all experienced this. Raw Tibicos has experienced selfish love!

At the top is the kind of love a mother gives her child, the love that says, “how may I help?” without judgment, or the love a chef gives a meal, food which will be eaten and forgotten, but in which the love becomes part of not only the experience, but also the nutrition. With food, we can test the love! Cook two meals, exactly the same – one cooked by an unhappy, resentful chef, and the other – the same in material terms – cooked by a happy, love-filled chef. When Raw Tibicos tried this experiment, there were actual, measurable differences in the experience and results of the meal. Sounds crazy? Test it for yourself, and see if you look at food – or war – or even dogs – in the same way?

Information provided is for entertainment only, no medical or other advice is offered here.

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Life, Men & Microbes

There is elite corporate history; and then there is history for the rest of us. . . The first can be known for how it flatters and degrades us at the same time; the second for how it connects with us on a daily level and makes our understanding richer.

In elite corporate history, Great Men use Powerful Forces to attain Great Results. These histories began with the bards hired at courts to memorialize the conquests of kings; one can easily see how the format of Great Men/ Great Results would result in a bigger payment from the king to the bard!

During the Industrial Revolution the person paying for the genre changed from kings to corporate owners; until our time when the people paying are the shareholders. One of Raw Tibicos’ first jobs was as a very junior equity analyst; which means that it was actually Raw Tibicos who had to open endless annual reports, all with the same photo of a CEO taken from somewhere at the man’s knee, giving the perspective of the company being lead by a literal Great Man. This was in the early 90’s, when people still felt that raiding pension funds, loading companies with debt, cutting benefits and eradicating investment in the future required an excuse!

The good thing about the Great Man version of history, (from the perspective of the man taking the money out of the company), is that in order to question the Great Man’s actions, one must question the very format in which the story is told . . .

Let’s do this, shall we? Let’s explore the alternative to the Great Man! Most histories, attempting this, begin slightly lower with everyday people’s lives. For a really different history, let’s go way, way, wa-a-y down the social scale, to depths often uncharted. As Soup&Kefir @RawTibicos was founded on the magic of microbes, let’s begin our history on a very, very small scale.

A teaspoon of soil has more microbes than there are people alive. Microbes vastly outweigh the total weight of humanity. Microbes are Elder Brother to mankind, and will probably be Surviving Sister. Healthy microbiomes in the soil process nutrients, act as information sources, and share goods with the plants we depend on. “As above, so below”, in our intestinal tracts, we all process personal “soil” with the help of our own microbiome. A healthy human biome processes nutrients, acts as information sources, and shares goods (sound familiar?) with its host? client? you. By contrast, an unhealthy biome does none of these things, allows cracks in the intestinal lining, and as an added insult, may actually manufacture toxins as byproducts of itself. To complete this circle – the plants we ingest become soil in the intestine, and historically, returned to the maternal soil source, to nourish new plants.

The capacity of the Earth, to grow, nurture and care for humanity – as well as all the other life – depends on the quality – not of Great Men and their Powerful Forces – but on the health of the microbiome. Destruction of the microbiome has resulted in a measurable, documented decline in the nutrient value of the fruits, vegetables and grains that mankind relies on – one the past hundred years. How much is this decline? If asked to guess, would you guess 20%? 50%? You would be wrong – the decline has been more than 90% – in many cases, over 95% of the minerals and nutrients in our food has disappeared!

Let’s go further. Most histories describe the rise and fall of nations and empires as having been the result of Great Men. The truth is – men might be doing great things – however their actions have zero predictive value! What does have predictive value? Soil. Oh, and one other thing – soil. Nations with strong, fertile microbe-strong topsoil thrive. Once that is gone – the nation falls. The secret of some cultures’ ability to survive thousands of years? You guessed it – it isn’t subtle planning, big weapons, or virtuous thought – it all depends on soil. Do you disbelieve me? I invite you to prove Raw Tibicos wrong!

We aren’t done yet – we can go further and deeper!

Healthy topsoil with a healthy biome => leads to nutrient-packed foods => leads to healthy, strong nations and cultures; each individual filled with his or her own personal strong soil filled with healthy biome.

Instead, we have the “green revolution”, where artificial nitrogen fertilizers have led to huge plant growth – but the plants lack nutrients and structure, and so are prey to disease and predation by micro-insects – and therefore require larger doses of poisonous insecticides. Is there a parallel? There is! Humanity, fed on food created by nitrogen fertilizers has exploded in number, but we are weak, nutrient depleted, depressed, and increasingly, require large doses of toxic chemicals and interventions. Hmmmm?

Comparing human growth to the growth of our food is an ancient idea – older than thinking about causes of population growth – which goes back only a few centuries, as far as we know. Readers are doubtless familiar with the work of Thomas Malthus, whose famous prediction was that given adequate food, populations increase exponentially, tragically outstripping the supply of food, which only can increase linearly. Malthus has fallen in and out of popularity in the two centuries since he wrote; the conclusion most supported by long-term evidence seems to be that occasionally, in the short-term, Malthus can be correct. Malthus, is of course, in the Great Man tradition. Modern thinking is now centred on more everyday decisions: each set of parents plans to have one or two children survive them. With high infant mortality, mothers have more children; when infants have a high likelihood of surviving, births decrease. Most of the population increase has occurred around the world in the generation where infant mortality dropped, but expectations of mortality had not yet caught up with the new reality.

Infant mortality would seem to contradict the idea that soil health is important – as nitrogen fertilizers and the attendant pesticides, herbicides have wreaked havoc on soil microbiomes – infant mortality has gone down. Let’s get deeper on this subject:

Any parent can confirm – feeding infants is hard! Breast feeding, which is so natural and evolved, is far more difficult than one can guess. Breast feeding an infant not only provides the best nutrition, but the action helps an infant’s palate and jaw grow to the correct shape. As with anything of great value, there is a learning curve – infants must learn to latch on correctly, and the sucking takes effort – necessary effort, as it is the action of muscles that pulls the palate and jaw into shape. Dehydrated, malnourished or drunk babies will have difficulties. Further, mothers must have enough nutrition to make milk, enough time to suckle their babies, enough peace to allow the milk to come, and enough maturity to bring this all together. None of these many factors can be taken for granted!

These difficulties caused the rise of the profession of wet nurse. A wet nurse is a professional baby feeder, a woman who had demonstrated the ability to bring infants through the crucial first two years. We do know that wet nurses were common in the Enlightenment, in Europe – concurrent with, or more likely – the cause of the population boom at that time. During the Enlightenment, wet nurses came from a family located near by, a family usually known for generations to her employers. Historically, Jane Austin and her siblings were sent out to a local women for nursing; the Austin family was known for having a high survival rate for its children. Compensation in the form of household help; food, probably clothing and other tangible help was given, as well as probably a wage.

This system broke down during the Industrial Revolution, and here is where we return to our theme of the microbiome. Alcohol has seven calories per gram – higher than sugar, at 4 calories per gram – or whole wheat flour at 3 calories per gram. Sugar was expensive, and flour gets insect infestations, plus needs labour to make it edible. For these reasons, for the hungry many, especially in cities, easy-stored and relatively cheap to buy alcohol became a food staple – not only for adults, but also for cows, and for babies. Cows can be kept alive (but not healthy) on the spent grains left over from distilleries – and babies can be fed, and kept quiet and docile (but not healthy) – on a diet of rags soaked in alcohol. For a world focused on efficiency, and not at all concerned about healthy microbiomes, this seemed like a good solution. Populations, fuelled by alcohol, continued to rise. In fact, one could call this the first wave of the “green revolution”, tied to the bodies of people, rather than plants.

Unsurprisingly, mothers objected to wet nurses who substituted alcohol for breast milk, and were unimpressed by the results of nursing provided by women fed on a diet of alcohol. Equally, the milk provided by sick, but alive cows, fed on the spent distillery grains, killed many infants. Must one mention that alcohol, as a disinfectant, and lacking fibre, is murder on the intestinal biome?

Wealthy families set up their own dairy herds in the country, and paid railroads to bring them fresh country milk, grown on the still healthy soil in the country. Middle class and poor families advocated for governmental succour – governments turned to corporations – and corporations responded with products – nitrogen fertilizers, baby formula, pesticides and herbicides, and the sterilization necessary to produce food in one place and time, while consuming it in a totally different place and time. The history of this time is also the history of Great Men, using Powerful Forces to attain Great Results. What is forgotten during the subsequent explosion of corporate profits, is the vitality in the soil, in the food, in the people and in the planet itself.

People are not used to thinking of themselves as creators of soil, or of alcohol as being parallel to nitrogen fertilizers, or to thinking about our food in context of the health of the soil, the cow, the wet nurse, or even the agricultural labourer. Could we be asking the wrong questions? Neo-Malthisians talk about the carrying capacity of the earth. Parents who have healthy children and an expectation of seeing them survive, have less children. People, plants and animals with healthy, nutrient-rich food consume less calories, and are sickly less often than when given nutrient-poor food. If it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a Great Man to enter the kingdom of God – would our lives, and the lives of those we care for – be easier if we gave the microbiome – (which, although greater in size than mankind – can certainly fit through the eye of a needle) – shall we give the microbiome for soil, cows, infants and adults what it needs to be healthy, happy and productive?

If you like this series of articles, please do support the work by purchasing @RawTIbicos products, here: soupkefir.ca — even you don’t like this writing, please consider purchasing, anyway, as twenty-five years is a long time for testing; many of the products are extremely good! Information provided is for entertainment only, no medical or other advice is offered.