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Photo courtesy of Herald Press

Eating simply

Lifestyle | A Mennonite cookbook may show a way out of the class struggle over food

Issue: "Steve Jobs 1955-2011," Oct. 22, 2011

Thirty-five years ago Mennonite publisher Herald Press published the More-With-Less Cookbook, which has now sold more than 740,000 copies. This year Herald Press released the third edition with updated statistics and nutritional information. Doris Jantzen Longacre's cookbook brought together nutritious recipes from Mennonites living in North America and around the world. Its recipes stress cooking from scratch with whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Many of the recipes use less meat than Americans are accustomed to eating.

A recent flare-up in the food wars shows the continued need for the cookbook. In an August TV Guide interview, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain slammed Food Channel personality Paula Deen: "The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen ... she's proud of the fact that her food is [expletive] bad for you. ... I would think twice before telling an already obese nation that it's OK to eat food that is killing us." Deen responded in the New York Post: "You know, not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine. My friends and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills."

New York Times food critic Frank Bruni stepped into the fray, noting that the exchange "exposes class tensions in the food world that sadly mirror those in society at large. You can almost imagine Bourdain and Deen as political candidates, a blue-state paternalist squaring off against a red-state populist over correct living versus liberty in all its artery-clogging, self-destructive glory." Bruni argued that Americans are too fat but "getting Deen to unplug the waffle iron" would not get at the "core of the problem any more than posting fast-food calorie counts or taxing soft drinks do." He called for more "healthy food that's affordable and convenient."

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That brings us back to More-With-Less. In addition to its 500 recipes, the cookbook conveys a Mennonite sensibility about eating simply. The book is out of step with both Bourdain and Dean. It shows that cooking on a budget doesn't have to be deep fried.

Listen to Susan Olasky discuss the More-With-Less Cookbook from the Oct. 15 edition of the radio program The World and Everything in It.

Bedbug bite

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Bedbugs are on the rise, and so are illnesses tied to the pesticides used to fight them. Increased international travel and pesticide-resistant bedbugs have combined to bring the bloodsucking critters even into the fanciest Manhattan hotels. Anxious Americans are fighting back-and sometimes getting sick in the process.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 111 people in seven states becoming ill after using pesticides to control bedbugs. Most illnesses were not serious-but one woman died. About 90 percent of the cases involved pyrethroids and pyrethins, common insecticides available in over-the-counter pest control products and head lice shampoos.

The government report acknowledges that pesticide-related illnesses are infrequent, but that could change as pesticide-resistant bedbugs proliferate. People, frustrated that drugstore pesticides don't seem to work, may use more and more. The one person who died, a North Carolina woman with a history of diabetes along with heart and kidney disease, used insecticides all over the bedroom, 18 cans of foggers, and bedbug killer on arms, chest, and hair.

Child's play

Handout

Maybe your mother told you not to play with your food. If so, she was missing a chance to foster creativity, and Jill White Mills has something to teach you. Her website, Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons (kitchenfunwithmy3sons.blogspot.com), dishes up one clever plateful after another: a Charlie Brown devised from pancakes and scrambled eggs, flower pot on a stick S'more treats, or an Angry Bird peanut butter sandwich.

When your children are not making fun food, they can enjoy drawing a stickman on the computer and then watching it move. Add a key and the stickman opens a box. Add a sword and the stickman chases away a dragon. All this fun is available on the easy-to-use website, Draw a Stickman (drawastickman.com). It features rudimentary story, drawing, and animation, but it's still intriguing.

Sticker shock

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture is scaring young couples with its estimate that the average cost of raising children from birth to age 18 is now $226,920-that's 40 percent greater than a decade ago. The USDA provides a calculator (65.216.150.170/default.aspx) so that parents can see the amounts for different-sized families living in different regions.

Breaking down the numbers suggests a different story. Nearly half the total comes from housing and daycare/education expenses. The cost calculation assumes two parents working outside the home and assumes every child costs the same. But families with many children know that the incremental cost of subsequent children is low-if one parent is at home, at least during their preschool years.

The USDA calculates 30 percent of the total for food and transportation and the remaining 20 percent for clothing, healthcare, and miscellaneous items. The numbers are scary because they forget the old adage: Children are cheaper by the dozen. Each child does not necessarily need a separate room. Meals are stretchable. On the other hand, that $226,920 does not include any money for private or Christian schools, so for some families the cost can be worrisome, especially when they have to pay twice for schooling: once in taxes, once in tuition.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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