Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 8, 2012

Oysters and sweet potatoes

By Ed Vasicek
Tribune managing editor

— My fictional friend Emil and I were hiking down the Walk of Excellence, trying to keep the cholesterol down. Emil had been tracking the news. I began the conversation.

“They have done a lot with the Walk and the Wildcat. Those Wildcat Guardians volunteer their time to clean things up, and with the city’s amazing efforts, things sure look good.”

Emil seemed to take the conversation in a completely different direction. At first I didn’t understand the connection, but I did later.

“Ed, one thing I hate to give up because of cholesterol is seafood. Sure, we are supposed to eat lots of fish, but shrimp, squid, clams and oysters are a no-no. Do you miss oysters?”

“No, I hate the things,” I replied. “I loved shrimp and squid, and I liked clams, but never cared for mussels or oysters. What makes you bring that up?”

“Well, I’ve been reading about how they are going to use oysters to filter out water pollution. I brought the Associated Press article with me:

“‘Marine scientists, planners and government officials say millions of mollusks planted in polluted waters off New York and other cities could go a long way toward cleaning up America’s urban environment. The oyster and other shellfish can slurp up toxins and eliminate decades of dirt.

“‘The oyster is the perfect aquatic engineer for the job. It pumps water to feed, retains any polluted particles and releases the rest — purified. Each one filters about 50 gallons of water a day.’”

“That’s amazing!” I replied. “If we ever need to clean up our waters, we can load ’em up with mollusks.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” added Emil. Cleaner water and better food – that should cut down some medical problems all right.”

“Funny how you bring up stuff I want to talk about, Emil. You must read my mind.” Of course that’s easy since Emil is a projection of my mind!

“Well,” Emil asked, “Did you know my wife, Edna, is now in charge of the school cafeteria at Southeastern?”

“I didn’t even know we had a Southeastern?” I replied.

“Look, Ed, don’t get tangled up in the details. The point is that the schools are working hard to start feeding our kids healthy stuff.”

“Yeah, I knew that. I came across this UPI article: ‘School cafeterias are taking on a colorful new look this fall as students across the country sit down to lunches that feature red sweet peppers, yellow squash and purple cabbage. Even the french fries have a new hue: orange sweet potato.

“‘New federal nutrition standards require schools to offer students more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and to limit the sodium, calories, and saturated and trans fats in school meals. Whole grains are now a staple and quinoa is fast becoming a member of the school lunch lexicon. The offerings must come in a variety of colors and schools are limited in the number of times starchy vegetables, such as corn and potatoes, can be served each week.’”

“Wow, I love eating quinoa. Most people can’t even pronounce that. I think it is made from the berry of some South American bush.” Emil explained.

“You know I like this,” I interjected. “I think our nation is moving in the direction of healthier eating. Training our children in better eating habits should be a goal for parents as well. It is a lot cheaper to eat healthy than pay those steep medical bills down the road!”

Emil agreed. “After all, Ed, that’s why we walk.”

• Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@att.net.