Stephanie Harris readily admits that the way she and her husband, Bob, have chosen to live isn't easy.
"I don't think we would survive if either of us wasn't committed to the lifestyle because it's a helluva lot of work," she said as she sat with her 16-month-old son in the living room of their Potomac house. It is not one of the many costly estate that are fast turning the rolling countryside into suburbia, but a small farm house with about three acres. Here the Harris grow their own fruits and vegetables and raise their own eggs and bees organically.
They east no meat, fish and poultry. What they cannot produce themlseves they buy from sources that raise things organically. They use only non-fat or low-fat dairy products. All their efforts are directed toward reducing the amount of toxic chemicals in thie diets because Stephanie Harris wants to breat feed all her children and does not want to pass on contaminants that are often found in high levels in breast milk.
She and her husband have come gradually to what she calls "the most ecologically sound life possible." They have had to make some compromises along the way. "It's very important to me to live near an urban area," explained Harris, who grew up in Manhattan. They feel they live far out enough to escape many of the citys pollutants, at least so far.
Both she and her husband work for the Environmental Defense Fund EDF Bob is the associate director of the toxic chemical program. Stephanie is a research associate. She has just completed a booklet on the benefits and risks of breast feeding for EDF and testified before a congressional committee recently that EDF cannot unequivocally recommend breast feeding to every woman because of the chemical residues that find their way into breast milk.
The level of these chemicals, such as PCBs (ubiquitious industrial compounds) and pesticides DDT, DDE, dieldrin, heptachlor, in breast milk varies according to a woman's diet and the region in which she lives. The pesticides ar stored in the fat of foods from animals (meat and dairy products) PCBs are found in fresh-water fish.
Two small studies have shown that vegetarians are likely to have lowr residues of these chemicals. EDF has another such study underway now. These chemicals have been linked by animal experiments and in some instances human experience to a variety of disorders as well as increased risk for cancer later in life. There is evidence that the fetus as well as the infant is at greater risk than adults.
As Harris said, there is a way to rid the body of a large precentage of the chemicals. She and her husband have chosen to follow that course by changing their diets.
For them the change was not a great a leap as it would be for most Americans. Both Harrises had read Rachel Caron's "The Silent Spring," which described how pestcides were destroying the environment and Stephanie Harris had worked for Ralph Nader's Health Research Group before she went to EDF.
When the Harris es marned in 1969, they moved to a cabin in the Concord, Mass., woods where, she says she decided to be "a country wife." They grew some of their own food and never used ways cooked from scratch so it was not a matter of giving up everything."
When they first came to Washington they were still eating meat. Though it was organically raised. About three years ago they gave that up, too, "without any sense of loss. As a matter of fact," Harris said, "we felt better on a vegetarian diet. We also kept much trimmer."
Harris cans much of what the garden produces for use in the winter. What fresh fruits she buys in the store, peels. When she has to buy vegetables which is rare, she scrubs them with Ivory soap and water.
She uses margarine instead of butter because "butter is pretty high in DDT because of some of the additives in margarine. "Mostly I use vegetable oil because oil is essentially decontaminated before it is bottled."
She uses low-fat dairy products and when she cannot find skim milk cottage cheese she washes off the curds.
Harris bakes all her own bread, makes her own jams and jellies, collects the eggs from the 24 chickens and weeds the quarter-acre garden. In short, she performs many of the household tasks of a farmwide. In addition she works three days a week.
Adding to her chores is the special food she must prepare for 16-month-old Alexander, who has a number of food allergies. Harris is convinced if she had not breast fed him his allergies would have begun earlie and been more severe because he is allergic to dairy products. "We have allergies in the family and he was bound to get them. What we have done has limited the extent of the disease," she said.
Alexander, who is as tall as a 2-year-old appears to be thriving. On a typical day he will have granola with raisins and banana, high protein bread with jam and juice with yeast extract for breakfast. Lunch may be a sandwich of bean-nut spread or peanut butter, fruit, juice with the extract and a high protein cookie. For dinner bean-rice paties, two vegetables, bread, fruit and juice.
A copy of the booklet on breast feeding, which Harris co-authored with Joseph Highland, is available for $1.50 from EDF, 1525 18th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.
Here are a few of the recipes Harris serves her family. RICOTTA SPINACH ROLL (2 rolls, 10 servings) Pastry: 12 tablespoons margarine 2 1/4 cups unbleached white flour 1/2 cup plain yogurt 1 egg 1 teaspoon salt Filling: 2 pounds spinach 2 pounds ricotta 3 eggs 1/4 cut freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1 tablespoon fresh or frozen basil leaves, chopped
Cut margarine into flour until peasized. Mix yogurt with egg and add mixture to flour. Make 2 balls; wrap each in wax paper and refrigerate overnight, or until well chilled.
Cook spinach; drain thoroughly and chop fine. Add the remaining filling ingrediens and mix well.
To assemble rolls, roll out one ball of dought into an 8-by-10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured, well greased sheet of aluminium foil. Spread half of the filling over surface of one rectangle, leaving an inch border on all sides; roll up as for a jelly roll, using the foil to help lift the dough. (Some of the filling will still come out the ends.) Wet finger with water and moisten flap of dough to seal: seal corners of roll. Lift foil with roll onto French break baking pan or cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining half of dough and filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, until pastry is golden brown. Slice in thick slabs and serve plain or with homemade tomato sauce, if desired. NUT RING WITH CREAM SAUCE
(8 to 10 servings)
1 tablespoons oil or margarine 2 cups chopped celery 1 cup unsalted walnuts 1 cup unsalted casherw 1/2 sup unsalted sunflower seeds 1/4 cup unsalted pignoli (pine nuts) 6 eggs 1/2 cup cooked brown rice 1 pound cottage cheese 1/4 teaspoon each dried thyme and oregano 3 leaves fresh and frozen basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried Salt and freshly gound black pepper to taste.
Saute celery in oil. Put nuts and eggs in blender on high speed until well chopped. Pour into bowl; add remaining ingredients. Pour into well oiled 1 1/2 quart ring mold and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or until quite firm. Turn out onto serving platter; spoon on some sauce and serve remaining sauce separately. CREAM SAUCE 2 tablespoons margarine 2 tablespoons flour 1 1/2 cup mild Salt, pepper to taste 1/4 teaspoon thyme 1/2 cup cooked peas (optional)
Heat margarine; add flour and stir with wire whisk. Remove from heat and stir in milk. Add seasonings and cook until sauce thickens. Add peas, if desired and serve over nut ring. OATMEAL PLUS BREAD
This bread is extremely high in protein. It is a crunchy, thick heavy loaf. 4 1/2 cups water 2 cups rolled oats 1 cup high protein hot cereal (uncooked)* 1/2 cup 12-grain cereal (or high protein hot cereal)* 4 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 cup honey 3 tablespoons margarine 3 tablespoons yeast (3 cakes) 3/4 cup warm water 3/4 cup soy flour 4 cups whole wheat flour 1 cup triticale flour 4 cups unbleached white flour 1/2 cup wheat germ 1/2 cup non fat milk powder 250 milligrams vitamins C mixed with 5 teaspoons whole wheat flour
Combine water, cereals and salt and boil for one minute. Stir in honey and margarine. While cooling, dissolve yeast in warm water. Then add to cooled cereal. Shift flours and add to cereals. Add milk powder and wheat germ. Crush vitamin C: mix with whole wheat flour and add 4 1/2 teaspoons of mixture to dough. Turn out onto floured board andknead until smooth. Put in greased bowl and let rise until double in bulk, covered with damp towel. Knead again briefly and divide into three loaves. Place in greased 9-by-5-inch pans and let rise, covered, until double in bulk. Bake at 375 degree for 40 minutess, or until well browned. Loaves freeze well.
*Harris uses Walnut Acres Hearty Cereal and 12 grain cereals but says other high protein, available in natural stores, can be substituted.
The vitamin C is used to lighten the loaf which would be too heavy with soy flour. EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA
(6 to 8 servings) 2 large eggplants Safflower or corn oil 1 ping tomato sauce, preferabaly homemade 1/4 pound mezzarella cheese 1/4 cup soyabeans 1 teaspoon baking soda 2 tablespoons parsley 2 tablespoons chopped fresh or frozen basil leaves Salt and pepper to taste 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Soak soybeans overnight in 3 cups water with baking soda (which removes "beany" flavour). Next day, drain off water, cover with fresh water and cook in pressure cooker for 35 minutes, adding 1 drop of oil to prevent foaming, or in a regular pot, until done.
Peel eggplants and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices. Salt pieces and put in colander to drain for an hour. Before using, wipe off moisture with towel. Put on well greased cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees; flip once to brown on second side. When well browned, remove to absorbent paper to remove excess oil.To make crisper, fry in oil instead of baking: eggplant gets more saturated with oil, however.)
To assemble, made layers in casserole, starting with tomato sauce, then eggplant slices, soybeans sprinkled liberally with tomato sauce, thinly sliced mozzarella, parsley, basil. Repeat layering, ending with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and tomato sauce is bubbly.