Moses And Goldschläger

This evening I had the pleasure of speaking at First Church Marlborough (who are celebrating their 350th (!) anniversary) on the topic of the theology of food.  I spent about half the talk going over uses of food in the Bible – a topic for another post – and then spoke about fasting practices in the Orthodox Church.  Today is, for us, the second day of Lent while our Western friends will have Holy Week next week – it is one of those years.  In going over food (and drink) in the Bible, I came across a point I had long forgotten.  In Exodus 32, the Israelites have fashioned an idol to worship – the Golden Calf.  Moses, in his anger over this, has the idol pulverized and makes the Israelites drink water mixed with the powder.  While I have not seen this anywhere, I figure this must be the origin of Goldschläger, a Swiss schnapps that has tiny flakes of gold in it.   The name of the liqueur – “gold-beaters” – refers to those who pound gold into thin leafs.  There is an urban myth that the gold cuts your digestive apparatuses and the alcohol goes straight into the blood stream.  I remember, though, a story from 20-odd years ago of someone who drank it regularly and ended up with a problem of too much gold in his bloodstream – internet searches have proved fruitless on this one.  In any case, if you have a friend drinking Goldschläger, you have an opportunity to talk about Biblical events.

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March 15th, 2016 by Fr. Greg

Grinch Time

No, Day 37 is not about the Grinch.  Rather, I am going to play Grinch, as I so often do when it comes to food and what we are putting into our bodies.  Today’s topic is the candy cane, a noble Christmas treat with, it seems, religious origins. I think the idea is that we are supposed to blog about that, although Fr. John’s exercise gives us free rein and he definitely encourages original angles.  So…let’s look at commercially available candy canes.  I have chosen Bob’s Candy Canes as a model, since they are easily recognizable and readily available.  You can check them out here.  Ingredients?  Actually, just a few, which is always a good sign – the fewer the better.  That is the good news.  The bad news is corn syrup (not HFCS but still bad) and artificial colors (Red 40 and Red 40 Lake).  When you see artificial colors, run away.  More info here.

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December 23rd, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Day 30: S’mores

Again Fr. John has given us a whimsical blogging topic: s’mores.  Full confession: I have never had one.  I have gone camping, done the campfire thing, etc., but have never tasted this combination of graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate.  According to the Wiki article s’mores even have their own feast day – Aug. 10 is National S’Mores Day (not on the Orthodox calendar, of course).

I mentioned I have never had one.  Know what?  I probably never will at this point, for two reasons.  I have made it to age 40 without trying – I feel I should continue the streak.  But more importantly, the marshmallow component poses a problem.  Unless I can figure out a way to make my own from the marshmallow plant, I will be stuck with commercial marshmallows.  Here is the ingredient list for Kraft marshmallows.  Prepare to be horrified:


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December 15th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Day 18: Feet

I have fallen behind in the 40 Days Of Blogging exercise, so it is catch-up time.  For Day 18 we have another whimsical topic – feet.  As I write this the temperature outside is below freezing, so dreams of walking barefoot outside will remain just that – dreams.  But walking barefoot outside is good for the soul and body.  It is how we were meant to walk, after all, and it helps us feel more in touch (literally) with the earth.  Also, there are tons of nerve receptors on the bottom of our feet.  So when we walk barefoot on the beach, for example, all the grains of sand connect with the different nerves and fire up the whole body.

Again, this is not going to happen anytime soon here in New England, so I will have to settle for walking barefoot on the berber carpets we have upstairs in the house 🙂 .

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December 4th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Holiday Depression

Today’s assignment – Holiday Depression – is a very real one for many people, although we may not immediately notice it.  It has a wide range- everything from the person who has nowhere to go on Thanksgiving to people holding off on filing for divorce until after Christmas and everything in between.  I cannot pretend to have any kind of solution to the problem – things like impending divorce have layers of causes and problems that will not be solved in a brief blog paragraph – but I can speak to the typical seasonal depression that many people here in New England have at this time.  My own winter blues lasts from roughly the end of September to May – my body has never adjusted back to living in the north :).

There is a physical aspect to holiday depression.  It is cold and we are either indoors or getting feeble sunlight while outdoors.  Vitamin D levels plummet and depression kicks in.  You can read more about Vitamin D here.  This is not the be all and end all of holiday depression, but keeping up Vitamin D levels has benefits beyond just feeling not bad around Christmas.

Tangent: I wonder if there is holiday depression in Australia, which has a huge Orthodox population?  In Australia Christmas falls in the summer, and Easter is in late fall (from what I understand).

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December 1st, 2013 by Fr. Greg

What We Will Eat On Thursday

Today’s blogging assignment for the 40 day exercise is turkey – the bird, not the country or other meanings.  Fr. John has again given us a whimsical topic to offset the heavier ones we have tackled.  I initially thought about writing on the terms for turkey in different languages or Zito, the turkey who lives on the campus of Holy Cross seminary (whom I discovered one morning sitting on my convertible roof – he nearly collapsed it and left footprints all over my car!).  But I have posted on those subjects previously and I don’t want to recycle another post.  So…well, get ready.  This won’t be pleasant.

This article has an excellent breakdown on the turkeys you will find in grocery stores.  Please read it – it is very short and very horrifying.  To sum it up, grocery store turkeys are raised in cruel environments where they never see the sun and eat things they are not meant to eat.  They are physically maimed as well.  The end product that we eat does a number on our well-being and how we feel, and likely leads to cancer and other issues.  It also is bland tasting (unless pumped up with tons of salt and other additives).

It is worth seeking out pasture-raised, grass-fed turkey.  It will taste better and be better for you, and you will know the animals have been humanely treated (the article has a link to a directory of farms and stores).  There is a theological aspect to this as well.  Orthodoxy is very clear that our bodies are God’s creation and we need to take care of them.  Also, we ingest the body and blood of Christ every Sunday, so whatever goes down our gullet should be clean.  Finally, we are the stewards of God’s creation.  Knowing this and what we learn from the article, how can we ever eat such commercially raised turkeys again?


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November 25th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

More Horrible, Though Not Surprising, News

Bloggers Choice today for the 40 day exercise – Fr. John has given us free reign to choose a topic.

Those of you who know me know that I am into the “Food Movement” – basically, educating yourself about what we eat, where it comes from, what is in it, etc.  This naturally leads us towards organic, non-genetically modified food or, as it used to be called years ago, food.  There are many, many reasons to go this route but the basic one is that what we put into our bodies should be what we are meant to eat.  Our bodies are not designed to process artificial ingredients, GMOs, insanely high gluten content from hybridized wheat, chickens who have never seen the light of day, etc.  I addressed the spiritual element to this a few days ago in my post about fasting.  The good news is that there are people out there doing yeoman’s work on this topic.  Recently the Food Babe posted on Subway, which is the largest chain restaurant in the world and one that many of us consider to be a healthful alternative to your typical fast-food place.  Well, check out the chart that she has developed through her own research and tell me what you think.


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November 18th, 2013 by Fr. Greg