Our Purple Toenails

Purple has always been my favorite color. I love to wear it, surround myself with it, and integrate it into as much of my life as possible. It makes me feel happy, calm, and grounded.

I sometimes paint my nails purple, most frequently my toenails. About two decades ago I was visiting my grandmother, my toenails adorned with a lovely purple hue. As I sat on her fluffy sofa, as others watched television, I read a magazine. It was in that magazine that I saw a photograph of a child, dying of mal- and under-nutrition, who also had purple toenails. I was stricken by the disparity between me, a privileged American who can afford the luxury of painting my nails, and the nearly 25,000 people who die of hunger, either directly or indirectly, every single day. To this day I am unable to wear purple nail polish without being reminded of the suffering of millions of people around the world, and the political and economic injustices that create these unthinkable conditions.

I felt, and still feel overwhelmed, by the many inequities in our world. But even though it may seem impossible to provoke change, every little thing we do to make a difference helps. Our vote matters. Our consumer choices matter. Our contributions, financial or otherwise, to charitable and social justice causes matter. My privilege, however small it may sometimes seem in relation to others, makes it impossible for me to give up. Not just because it would be unethical and unfair, but because giving up would only serve to reinforce that divisive privilege. And that is simply not good enough for me.

The first step is to educate ourselves. If you would like to learn more about global hunger, the following website offer excellent resources:
Mercy Corps
U.N. World Food Programme
Stop Hunger Now
Freedom from Hunger
The Hunger Project

The following websites have information about domestic hunger in the United States:
Feeding America
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Research and Action Center

40 for 40 #6: Sourdough

I have always been curious about sourdough, but when I recently read that it both had a lower glycemic index than other breads and offered beneficial bacteria I decided to give it a try. I promptly ordered a starter that originated in the 1700s and a nice airy jar in which my starter would reside.

If you haven’t worked with sourdough before, it requires a bit of TLC. If it is kept on the counter, it needs to be fed with water and flour every day. If it is kept in the refrigerator, which is what I do, it only needs to be fed once a week. Each time it is fed, half of the starter needs to be used or thrown away. As a Pennsylvania Dutch person raised with the motto of “waste not, want not,” I of course need to fund a use for my starter each week. I have been eating a lot of blueberry pancakes.

I’m one of those people who tends to go overboard as soon as I latch on to sometime. I had an idea about how I could travel throughout the world with my sourdough starter — incorporating bacteria from every state, and finally every country, so that I could bake peace bread to provided sustenance to people in need. While I haven’t yet started this project, I am tempted to put my starter in the backseat of my car, neatly tucked in a seatbelt with a pillow for support, the next time I cross over into the nearby New Jersey border.

A Rainbow a Day


Diets suck…the life out of our days, the days out of our years. Anything that is restrictive in such a way can only have short-lived, superficial success because it is physically and emotionally repulsive. Instead, I aim for a more succulent sustenance to promote optimal well-being.

I do this by trying to eat a rainbow every day. I don’t always succeed, but with this as my goal I typically eat well and feel great.

But not today, at least during the first half of the day. I had sourdough pancakes this morning, an almost weekly necessity for someone like me who can’t stand to waste excess starter and who had no other occasion to bake, having already baked two loaves of bread last week. Then for a snack, I had two pieces of string cheese. So far, that’s a lot of white. And brown (syrup). I skipped lunch; I was to meet a friend for lunch and a walk but we, despite thinking we were in the same parking lot, could not find each other. By the time I got home after running errands, it was time for dinner. I had hummus (more white), a raw red pepper (red, obviously), stuffed grape leaves (green), tabbouli (green and red), and cabbage and carrot salad (purple and orange). Now that is a rainbow-licious meal! It is only missing yellow and blue. I suppose we could count the chickpeas, and maybe the tahini, in the hummus as yellow.

I’m going to go eat a blueberry now. Mission accomplished.

I usually plan my meals very carefully, but with work and social engagements and travel, unfortunately infrequent as it is, my plans are not always executed as I had anticipated. I like to shop and chop on a Friday, or if that is not possible early on a Saturday, preparing everything that I need for the week so that eating my daily rainbow is a matter of routine. It can become a bit bland, many times eating the same thing on Wednesday as I ate on Saturday, but this process makes it easy for me to ‘follow the rainbow.’

To further help me, and you, do a better job of eating our daily rainbows, and of absorbing a variety of nutrients, here is a list of my five favorite foods in every color (except for blue, because I can only think of one — but to be practical, purple includes both blue and red so I suppose eating more than one of those will do). Of course, you should consult your physician or nutritionist before radically changing what you eat because there are many things to be taken into consideration when it comes to food — like sensitivities, disease, macronutrient balance, ethics, etc. You can also make your own rainbow hotlist and post it on your cupboard, put it in your journal, or set up a calendar alert to remind you each morning.

Red – strawberries, red peppers, tomatoes, cherries, apples, red beets (or are they really purple?)
Orange – carrots, cantaloupe, butternut squash, peaches, yams
Yellow – pineapple, bananas, lemons, summer squash, acorn squash
Green – kale, spinach, artichokes, asparagus, brussels sprouts
Blue – blueberries
Indigo/Violet – blackberries, beets, cabbage, grapes, dried plums