By LYNNE IRONS
I was saddened this past week by the death of my Uncle Dan Boyle. I mentioned him in my Memorial Day column as having been wounded on Mt. Suribachi at Iwo Jima for which he received the Purple Heart. He was a quiet man — patient and amused by life. I recall his driving a motor boat on the East Branch Dam of the Kinzua River. He hauled us children around water skiing hours on end. Thanks, Dan!
The damming of the Kinzua River (Upper Allegheny) was an important event in my childhood. An interesting book has been written on the subject: The Allegheny Senecas and the Kinzua Dam: Forced Relocation through two generations. The word Kinzua means “fish on a spear” in the Seneca Iroquois language. The construction of the dam entered American folklore and the environmental movement partly because of song lyrics featuring the Kinzua Dam and the abrogation of federal treaties. Two of the songs are Now that the Buffalo’s Gone by Buffy Saint-Marie and As Long as the Grass Shall Grow by Johnny Cash. The reservoir is still called Lake of Perfidy by some. The land was originally granted to Chief Cornplanter, a contemporary of George Washington, for “as long as the sun rises and sets.” His body as well as 600 Senecas had to be relocated when the courts disagreed with opposition from the Seneca Nation, the state of New York, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Quakers and secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes.
The dam flooded one third of the Allegheny Reservation of the Seneca Nation. I remember the controversy surrounding the “Damn” in the early 1960s as well as a huge den of rattlesnakes flooded out of the area. Thousands of snakes headed for higher ground.
Last month I was privileged to hear Michael Pollan speak at the Slow Food annual pot luck. It was a wonderful event. There were hundreds of people there eating each other’s food. Michael talked about food in a scientific and political context. We have become a society which depends on government regulations and scientists. Both imply that food is simply the sum of its nutritional parts and that the whole point of eating is health. Over the years there have been various good versus evil changes in what we should buy and eat. For example, the latest evil is trans fat. A decade ago it was carbohydrates and before that cholesterol. Omega 3 is good right now.
This phenomenon has been within the last 100 years when store-bought food showed up and an entire industry grew around food production. The Western diet reliably makes people sick, to wit: cancer, heart disease and Type II diabetes. We have become the Lipitor generation.
Michael talked about how we have let science displace culture. Our cultures give us identity. People who eat traditional diets are healthy. Health problems arise when scientific diet arrives within a culture. Take, for example, the Native Americans who traditionally ate corn, beans and squash and wild game. Now they have an unusually high rate of diabetes.
Michael says three important reasons to eat are pleasure, community and identity. There are rules we should follow: Eat food — not too much — mostly plants. Do not eat anything your great-grandmother would not have recognized as food. Do not eat any food product with more than five ingredients. Do not eat anything that does not rot except honey. (Twinkies?) Eat with others. Eat until 80 per cent full.
Speaking of traditional, my family is Irish. I love potatoes. I pulled my first of the year. My daughter, granddaughter and I ate a big pot of them boiled in a chicken stock with butter and salt for supper with nothing else. We were so happy. They were creamy and delicious.
I replanted beets and carrots. The radishes are already up. I cut back my Swiss chard and fed it to my chickens in hopes my fall crop will emerge with tender leaves.
I enjoy the Prairie Home Companion. “Powdermilk Biscuits. In the big blue box — gives shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.”