Saturday Workshop Reports – Spring Retreat 2021

There were seven workshops on Saturday:

Friday workshop reports are on a different page – click here

SUPER FOODS – Pondering Taste and Nutrition

Presented by Martha Hicks

Martha Hicks led the EUU Spring 2021 retreat workshop entitled “Superfoods,” a great participative meditation on what those words might mean. While recognizing that this term has a certain currency today denoting foods that are exceptionally replete with necessary nutrients, vitamins and bacteria, Hicks also spoke to the foods that, when we’ve eaten them, we just sigh and say  “suuu-per,” such as when we’ve just had some ricotta pancakes!

Like Martha, everyone attending her workshop shared being on a constantly-evolving food journey where decisions are made, respected for a time and then let go of so as to make room for different realities and other foods. Participants contributed examples showing how the food they prepared and consumed was a dance of negotiation of taste preferences, physical predispositions and sensitivities, food histories, personal moods, social occasions and global markets.

The idea of food as medicine made sense to us all, medicine for the body, the soul, the body politic. The medicine and the treated condition are always changing.

Within the context of this complexity, Martha also provided us an extensive list of the foods cited in medical journals and the press as particularly beneficial to our bodies. She even organized and presented the list so as to facilitate food shopping!

She wound up the workshop by evoking the question of how the world will feed its 8 billion, and still climbing, human population. Which foods will be the super providers? She presented some potential panacea: fonio, for example, an herbaceous plant cultivated in West Africa, known for its high-protein content, or the bambara groundnut from semi-arid subsaharan Africa, wakame algae or, of course, insects. Most of us in the workshop quailed at this last option. We might need a piece of white chocolate for comfort just now.

Gail Rosecrance, UUFP (Paris)

WE shall Overcome. Did we?

Presented by Wolfgang Jantz

In the workshop “We Shall Overcome — But Did We?,” Wolfgang Jantz, a Unitarian from Germany, used pictures, music, and lots of stories and information to present on the social justice movements of the 60s, giving both an overview of the different movements across Europe and the US, and also sharing his own experiences in Germany during this time.  The multi-national, multi-generational participants of the workshop then had a chance to share their own experiences (be it personal experiences or narrated through parents, etc).  There was also a discussion about how this momentous time fifty years ago is still relevant for us today, as we keep facing similar problems.  Did we overcome, or are we still overcoming?  And what role does our liberal religion play in this?  Overall, it was a workshop that was really informational, but also inspired a lot of food for thought!

Rica Kaufel


Food for your thoughts: How to maintain UU values and remain healthy, loving and resilient during Covid and other challenges

Presented by Patricia Biondo

I had the pleasure of attending Patricia Biondo’s Saturday afternoon workshop called Food for Your Thoughts. It was well attended and covered a lot of ground. For example, she ensured that we are aware of the impact of what we eat on the environment. She stressed how important it is to eat locally produced food, as little in the way of animal products as possible and as much of our food grown organically as possible. She then pointed out what foods contain the most mood-improving elements, so important in these pandemic times: cacao, anchovies, pumpkin seeds, spinach, sweet potatoes, almonds, green tea, sauerkraut, rosemary, blueberries.

But most of the time was spent on her Principles for Health. They number 37, but only the first 14 deal with eating. Some were novel for most participants, like avoiding eating too late in the day (close to bedtime), not drinking fluids with your meals, but at least 30 minutes beforehand, and easing digestion by eating only one kind of food at a time. I found one of the others quite apt: Try to harvest the lessons from your learning steps (“mistakes”). Finally, she provided us with a useful 11-page list of food additives (E numbers for us Europeans) along with assessments of their risks and side effects, ranging from headaches and intestinal upset to cancer. In sum, this was a great learning experience from which we all benefited!

Peter Jarrett, UUFP (Paris)


What is Eco-Kosher to consume?

Presented by Shulamit Levine-Helleman

In the Jewish tradition, keeping kosher means to eat in accordance with the dietary restrictions of traditional Jewish law (such as how to butcher animals, how to prepare food, etc.), introduced in the Torah and Talmud. In the late 1970s, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi expanded upon this idea, introducing the concept of eco-kosher foods. This means looking at the human and environmental cost of food production when deciding what to eat.

In our Saturday workshop, after a brief introduction to the concept of eco-kosher, we talked about how we can incorporate this into our decisions on what we buy and eat. Some of the things we mentioned are choices that many UUs would probably agree with – things like buying local and organic as far as possible, opting for fair trade chocolate/tea/coffee, buying sustainably caught fish (rather than those caught by huge trawler nets), etc. And, in keeping with the overall theme of the weekend, we also talked about veganism. The workshop was a good reminder that the choices we make as consumers matter.

Adrienne Brayman, Brussels UU Fellowship (BUUF)


Meal Planning to Cut Down on Food Waste

Presented by Karen Kyker and Shellie Holubek

Karen Kyker is a science teacher in Paris and EUU Vice President. Shellie Holubek was co-leader of the workshop and joined the online session from Edinburgh, Scotland.

I took this workshop because wasting food really bothers me. My husband Rick is the main shopper in our house, and he buys a lot of produce. In fact, he fills the produce drawer up to the top with spinach, beets, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, strawberries, blueberries, and other healthy food. I am all in favor of fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables, but we also need to make sure to make meals all week long that use what we bought. Otherwise, some items need to be composted or thrown away.

One of the first things I learned in this workshop is how much food is wasted. For example, in the US about 30 percent of the food people buy is wasted – approximately 99 kilograms per person. That is entirely too much! This wasted food also produced methane gas, and this is worse than carbon dioxide in terms of getting into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.

So what can we do about this problem? One of the ideas proposed by the presenters and the workshop participants was to make soup and smoothies out of what is in your produce drawer. We were already doing this, but not everyone else might have thought of it.

To help keep lettuce fresh, workshop participants suggested either putting a paper towel in the plastic bag with the lettuce or put washed lettuce into a salad spinner and keep this in your refrigerator until ready to eat.

Shellie talked about how menu planning can help reduce food waste. She shared several menu plans with the workshop participants. She said to make a list of the meals you like to regularly cook and suggested that you only need between 10 to 14 meals in your repertoire. Someone also suggested taking a photo of what’s in your produce drawer before you menu plan to incorporate all those items you bought into your menu plan.







To menu plan, the first thing you should do is make a list of those meals you like.

Shellie suggested if you can’t come up with a 7 to 14 day menu plan, just copy someone else’s plan. “The internet is your friend,” she advised. She also mentioned how you can plan your menus based on different themes and shared a slide doing that.

Shellie also talked about how in her family growing up, there was a “must-go” day of the week. Her mother would take everything out of the fridge that was getting close to its expiration date and put it on the kitchen counter. Then family members would take a plate and go through the food and help themselves to whatever was being featured on this day.

One thing I do to limit food waste is make what I call a garbage salad. It features lettuce and all the other items in the fridge that need to be used up, like garbanzo beans, corn, peppers, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, etc.

The only limit to this salad is your imagination! You can also roast left over veggies and then thrown them into a salad or put them into a soup.

One of the workshop participants said she really liked salmon but tired of eating it every day. Other people suggested she try making a salmon Caesar salad, salmon in quiche, salmon cakes, salmon with pasta or glazed salmon with soy sauce. Such advice was helpful.

Here are some apps and links that were shared by the group to help you menu plan.  This is food supplies manager and cooking planner that helps you avoid food waste by tracking what you have and when it expires.

Here are two vegan menu planning apps you can get on Google Play or I-Tunes.  Some of these apps cost money or require a subscription, however.

By Nancy Klein, a member of the UU Church in Prague. She lives in Spain with her husband Rick. They are both at-large members of EUU as well.


Constructive Engagement with Those We Love in Challenging Political Times

Presented by Matt Gilsenan

Why is it so hard to talk about topics we care deeply about, when those we love disagree with us? Are there ways we can resolve these conflicts and protect our relationships? Matt Gilsenan led us in a productive exchange, including excellent role playing scenarios on these thorny questions and more, in his engaging and helpful workshop, “Constructive Engagement in a Difficult Political Climate with Those We Love.”

First Matt clarified that a relationship is actually people plus dynamics (or the space in between us). As one participant aptly summed it up, “a relationship is like a third person with its own needs.” Matt guided us through brainstorming a few basic prerequisites for resolving conflict: open-mindedness, mutual respect and a willingness to be at least a little bit wrong were a few of our ideas.

The tricky bit is being willing to listen and reserving judgment before responding. Tricky because modern neuroscience has recognized that it is accurate to say, “The passions rule the intellect.” (David Hume, British philosopher, 1700s). We tend to rationalize our emotions, and then they can separate us from each other and lead to assumptions that let us down. These assumptions can range from thinking I have nothing to learn from you, or that I win when you see that I am right.

So what works? Seeking to understand before we seek to be understood (Steven Covey), remembering that all humans share the same basic needs (Marshall Rosenberg) and most of all, as Rev. Diane told us in her workshop, “It’s all about the relationship.”

We practiced active listening, showing empathy, staying calm and more in our role plays. We shared many creative ideas for resolving conflicts and keeping relationships safe. Of course, as we discovered, this process may take a lifetime to master – we may not become experts right away, but remembering that we can forgive ourselves and ask the forgiveness of others, it’s better to dive in. We don’t walk the first time we try – but we don’t run if we don’t get started.

Bonnie Friedmann, EUU member at large


Eat and find your balance – What the “Five Elements” tell us about food and well-being

Presented by Michael Gellings

This workshop explored an intriguing and complex topic…the ancient Chinese conception that all things in the world (in nature and in the body) function according to the relations of the five basic elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

This includes the food that we eat; therefore, balancing these elements contributes to optimum health.

Different flavors correspond to these 5 elements and learning to balance foods means we try to include more foods of all five flavors to ensure we receive the nutrients our body needs. Here are a few examples:

Water=salty          often black/purple foods
black/ brown beans, blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, eggs, fish

Wood=sour          citrus fruits/ green foods
broccoli, celery, lemons, oranges, olives, sauerkraut, vinegar, yogurt

Fire=bitter            dried food or hot or red foods
black/ cayenne/ chili peppers, beer, coffee, paprika, raspberries, strawberries

Earth=sweet         starchy or brown/yellow/ orange
bananas, beef, cantaloupe, squash, sweet potato, yam

Meta=pungent      savory or herbs or spices
basil, cinnamon, garlic, mint, rice, mustard, thyme

Many foods can be more than one element at a time. Others can be assigned to different elements based on how they are cooked. For example, raw onion is the metal element because of its pungency, whereas cooked onion is very sweet and becomes earthy.

A balanced person will enjoy a variety of all foods of all elements. If there is a disliking of a special group, the body probably doesn’t need any more of this element.

If there is a strong liking for a group, it may be an imbalance in these elements.

Understanding more about the 5 elements and food can help balance your body and soul.

Aude van Lidth de Jeude, Brussels UU Fellowship (BUUF)