Sunday, 12 February 2012

Preparing for Lent/II

Last week I mentioned that we are now in Septuagesimatide, a traditional time of preparation for Lent.

 A few blog posts are starting to pop up on the web around this theme, some of them suggesting some interestingly penitential practices such as putting a pebble in your shoe (sounds potentially crippling, I have enough foot problems as it is!).

 So personally, I'm all for going for something traditional!

Fasting and abstinence

 The most obvious starting point is fasting and abstinence. 

I'm not talking here about going back to an early medieval regime of one meal a day with no dairy products or eggs - some may be up for that, but why not start by doing what our parents did a mere forty years ago or so!  Accordingly, today I want to talk about getting ready for some fasting (in the modern sense of no snacking, and restricted intake) and abstaining from meat.

The requirements used to be:
  • fasting and abstinence on all Fridays, and all Saturdays;
  • partial abstinence (one meat meal only) and fasting on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays (except Ash Wednesday), and Thursdays.
What are we required to do for Lent?

 First a little refresher on Lenten practices.

Canon 1250 of the Code of Canon Law provides that the days of Lent (ie Monday to Saturday during Lent excluding Solemnities) are days of penance.  So you have to do something penitential on these days.  Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of required fasting and abstinence.

 In addition to fasting and abstinence, most people traditionally did something extra for Lent.  I mentioned the tradition of reading a spiritual book right through right through, a practice which derives from the Benedictine Rule, but didn't get many suggestions for suitable books.  But if you have some, please do share!

St Benedict also suggests adopting some other ascetic practices for Lent, and one of the traditional favourites is saying the penitential psalms.

Abstinence...

Still, going back to fasting and abstinence, I did my pre-Lent shopping in preparation for giving up meat last Friday.  Giving up meat altogether, in my view, requires a bit of planning to ensure you will include enough protein, iron (women need double what men do) and zinc in particular.

Remember that giving up meat and cutting back on the size of the meals is the penance - the food itself doesn't have to be boring or taste nasty as well - Lent goes on for quite a long time!

So, what I do is:
  • buy or make and freeze a few meals that can be just heated up for those times when you don't feel like doing much cooking!  There are plenty of cheap and easy options like vegetarian baked beans, Asian vegetable curries, quiche and so forth to choose from;
  • stock up on nuts - they are an excellent low cholesterol source of protein and minerals etc.  Think salads (waldorf with walnuts and celery for example), curries (cashews work well with almost any vegetable(s) or as a thickener), stirfries can be flavoured with peanut butter or peanuts (OK technically they are a legume not a nut, but...), or Asian style noodles served with a sprinkle of ground peanuts;
  •  go for as wide a variety of grains, dried beans and bean flours (chickpea flour makes a great flatbread), lentils and peas etc as possible.  Most vegetable sources of protein lack one or more amino acids, so variety is important;
  • stock up on cheeze - think vegetable gratin, fried haloumi as a treat for kids, pizza, etc;
  • stock up on canned fish.  I'm not much of a fan myself, but there are dishes which can make the canned variety more palatable such as sweet potato and mackerel cakes; kitcheree with hard boiled egg, peas, rice and mackerel; chickpea/corn/salmon cakes,  pasta dishes, etc!;
  • think about recipe ideas in advance, particularly focusing on good protein combinations - corn fritters (corn is in season at the moment and growing in my garden at least, and if you cook them in a sandwich maker are quite low fat!); dhal (lentil curry) and rice; tacos and beans; etc;
  • think about foods that are high in iron etc.  If you have basil growing in your garden or can buy it, make pesto with some pinenuts to further boost the iron content - good on pasta, but also as a sandwich spread or flavour booster for a vege soup.  Mussels are also a very good source of iron and minerals, and no more expensive than meat (if you are cooking for one, buy the frozen variety, and dole out a few at a time in a pasta sauce etc!).  Fresh cockles and oysters are not cheap alas, at least in inland Canberra, but are very high in both iron and zinc - and you can always use the canned variety (soak oysters in milk for a few minutes to take away the oily taste) on pizza, in a pasta sauce, or in a potato soup;
  • think of one or two treat dishes for those times when you are flagging!  Personally I love bread and butter pudding.  It's nutritious, and for those with allergies or intolerances, makes gluten free bread palatable, and even works with rice milk!  So turn it into a savoury dish using those tomatoes and other veges from your garden together with a few herbs.
Hope that gets you thinking!

And for some good spiritual reading on the Mass texts for Sexagesima Sunday, do go take a look at Fr Hunwicke's Liturgical Notes.

8 comments:

Antonia Romanesca said...

Traditional Anglicans have long had the practice for Lent, of reading slowly and prayerfully the Mystical Gospel of St John - right through Lent. I realise there are probably no trad. Anglicans left in Australia, now that it is easier to go home to Mother Church and with Anglicanism in Australia significantly deflated cf. its halcyon days of the 1950s - however I am mentioning it anyway!

Antonia Romanesca said...

“Giving up meat altogether, in my view, requires a bit of planning to ensure you will include enough protein, iron (women need double what men do) and zinc in particular.”
You would mean ‘complete protein’. Its true that one can get zinc deficiency from vegetarianism - and anaemia also. Women don’t need double the iron of men however – men would get iron storage disease from double the iron of women [which is fatal]. Women need 12 mg iron daily; post menopausal 10 mg. Men 10 mg. Lactating women with singletons 16 to 18 mg depending on body mass. Lactating women with twins or triplets, 20 or even 22 mg.

Antonia Romanesca said...

The Penitential Psalms - great! Thanks for that reference, Kate..

Kate said...

Antonia - Complete protein is one issue, enough protein, or 'protein quality' is a second and distinct issue in its own right.

A useful source to help you make you get the balance right is this website providing detailed nutritional information on key foods:http://nutritiondata.self.com/

And on iron, it depends on the source. In essence, women find it more difficult to absorb non-haem sources of iron. As a result, for those on vegetarian diets the RDA for pre-menopausal women is 33mg, 14 mg for men.

Antonia Romanesca said...

“Antonia - Complete protein is one issue, enough protein, or 'protein quality' is a second and distinct issue in its own right.”
In Australian dietetic and medical practice, a complete protein [with a complete amino acid chain] IS a quality or first class protein. [sorry, had to use caps cos can’t underline] Other proteins are ‘second class’ or ‘inferior’. So what is ‘a quality protein’ and what is ‘a complete protein’ are one and the same thing.

“A useful source to help you make you get the balance right is this website providing detailed nutritional information on key foods:http://nutritiondata.self.com/”

Can’t say I know this site – its American? I just use the Feds’ info guidelines from the Australian C’wealth health publications. We Australians have not done that research however – it all comes from the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC.

‘”… on iron, it depends on the source. In essence, women find it more difficult to absorb non-haem sources of iron. As a result, for those on vegetarian diets the RDA for pre-menopausal women is 33mg, 14 mg for men.”

Oh right, you were speaking exclusively of vegetarians. I’ve never heard of vegetarian female patient or client being told to consider they need 33 mg elemental iron RDA…possibly for fear they might get muddled and take iron pills to excess [which are bad for your bowel], so as ‘to make it to 33 mg’ daily. The advice I see them being given, is ‘quit on vegetarianism because it will damage your iron and zinc status.’ The problem I and others see with female non red meat eaters, is that they invariably become anaemic, sooner or later. Hence they are told to have red meat 3 times a week – have an iron test – then keep eating red meat 3 times a week even if they show as being only slightly anaemic on the test. Then regular haemocrit tests every 6 to 12 months. This is because if you are off red meat, its just oh so hard to calculate if you are getting sufficient iron. Low iron compromises immunity, so its quite a big issue in dietetics, vis a vis women [especially given the breast cancer rate in Australia] - rather like osteoporosis is a big dietetic issue.

Kate said...

Sorry I should have been clearer - protein content of foods varies widely. A cup of lentils cooked will give you around 18g, a cup of cheeze 33g, a cup of beef 55g. So as well as amino acid complementarity you have to look at the protein quality (amount) contained in what you are eating on a vegetarian diet.

On iron, yes getting that much requires hard work. Yet a number of women's orders have managed it perfectly well for many centuries, and many laypeople get by on very little meat!

And we are only talking six weeks after all, with the possibility of Sundays to eat some meat.

Also, there is a fair amount of evidence that the body can get by with a lot less if it is well absorbed - no caffeine with meals, always include vit c etc.

The Australian guidelines are indeed fairly basic and unnuanced(and the new draft ones even vaguer at the moment, of the 'eat more/less of' variety). To really get what you need you have to go to the more detailed resources I think, either in book form or online.

Antonia Romanesca said...

“protein content of foods varies widely. A cup of lentils cooked will give you around 18g, a cup of cheeze 33g, a cup of beef 55g. So as well as amino acid complementarity you have to look at the protein quality (amount) contained in what you are eating on a vegetarian diet.”

I counsel that a 240 gram cup beef/chicken has c. 40 grams complete/first class protein; fish 35 grams. Doubts have been cast on amino acid complementarity, eg. with nursing mothers [breastfeeding exerts a greater nutritional pull than heavy pregnancy], it simply does not seem to work and unless the mother gets a decent amount of complete/first class protein [from eggs, dairy, beef, chicken, fish, torula yeast [approx 65 grams complete protein for a woman nursing a singleton], the quality of her milk goes down, which commonly leads to lactation failure, which is not what we aim at. One cubic inch or 3 cubic cms of cheddar type cheese has 6 grams complete protein; the same of soy cheese has 7 grams protein but its not a complete protein.

“..women's orders have managed it perfectly well for many centuries and many laypeople get by on very little meat!” ~~~It does seem that some become anaemic faster than others, for physiological reasons which are not yet quite understood. I find that Oriental women become anaemic slower than Caucasians, which is interesting isn’t it - because Oriental food is trad. low in protein, cf conventional Western food.

“and we are only talking six weeks after all, with the possibility of Sundays to eat some meat.” ~~~Yes, I am wondering how many Aussie Catholics are foregoing meat in Lent, given what happened here to Fish on Fridays…? I fear those good nuns would have been as vulnerable to an anaemia and zinc def. as any other Caucasians!

“Also, there is a fair amount of evidence that the body can get by with a lot less if it is well absorbed - no caffeine with meals, always include vit c etc.” Yes, specialists in internal med. are pushing C with meat now. No caffeine, Kate – what about our Italians?  What are you saying!!

“To really get what you need you have to go to the more detailed resources I think, either in book form or online.” ~~ Yes, the broad guidelines basic but there are detailed govt publications from Fed publishing service Canberra, listed on the CW website I think. Over the counter for you in Canberra?

Kate said...

Antonia - You should apply for a job with the meat and dairy promotion people!

I'm pretty sure most of my readers are not (currently) nursing mothers, and if they were, would use their judgment.

Adopting a vegetarian or even vegan diet, provided itis done with prudence, is perfectly healthy for most people, possibly even healthier in many respects (cholesterol, etc) then one involving meat.

Doing so for short periods of time (or longer for religious) is a long accepted ascetic practice in Catholicism and indeed many religions, and we shouldn't let the modern obsession with our health get in the way of the wisdom of the tradition...

Moreover most of my readers are not in Canberra, and can far more easily access online resources, which are in any case far more comprehensive.

Do many people give up meat for Lent these days? No, I rather think not. But it is a tradition I think we should recover.