Welcome to the 2018 season of posts about inclusive fieldwork food for volunteers, students and staff on archaeological digs and fieldwork projects.
I'll be writing a lot this season about the sorts of meals that are good for fieldwork volunteers, students and staff who need a low carb diet - people who have diabetes, pre-diabetes, iatrogenic high blood glucose (eg with auto-immune conditions such as Hashimoto's and/or on some thyroid treatments), or otherwise needing to monitor blood glucose levels. It's not a rare issue; and, with the rapidly changing demographic and the reasonable expectations of fee-paying archaeology volunteers and students, it's not one that is going to go away. Plus, in my view, no-one should be dissuaded from participating in fieldwork because of having a diabetic condition.
And excuse the abbreviation, but I'm going to use 'PwD' to = people with diabetic conditions. I don't like 'diabetics' as a noun, as it's reducing people to a medical issue, rather than seeing the person as who they are but with a bit of a challenge to manage. And it takes a whole dig to deal with a challenge. No-one should have to handle it alone.
I'll also continue to address vegan and gluten-free easy alternatives for the Fieldwork Kitchen, and do as much 'inter-twining' of recipe and menu ideas as possible.
And, the wonderful Facebook Page of 'All Inclusive Archaeology' will be posting a couple of short pieces from me on these themes on the 7th and 14 of July 1018. Thank you to Theresa O'Mahoney, who is currently working hard to build the Enabled Archaeology Foundation website and carry out inclusive fieldwork.
People with diabetes or related conditions ('PwD') will, in my experience, be pretty adept at monitoring their own blood glucose levels (usually with a small digital monitor), and competent at preventing and dealing with 'spikes' and 'lows' - if they're provided with the foods they need to manage this. Food is as important as medication - maybe more so for many people with a diabetic condition. There are also going to be a couple of issues potentially around timing of meals and snacks, but again these can be fairly easily managed with a little bit of knowledge and planning.
I'll be showing how to make coleslaw and pickled vegetables in my next piece in this series; and also how to make and obtain lots of other things in the next few pieces after that.
Here are my 5 tips and 'things to remember':
1. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY - Most people on a dig will be participating in physical activity, usually at higher levels than normal
It's important to remember this - during fieldwork, PwD may well be burning off calories and affecting (lowering) blood glucose through extra physical activity (unless they're doing sedentary work eg in the finds hut). So they may be able to ease up on their carb restrictions a little - but obviously they'll need to keep monitoring.
Also, if you are a PwD, this is important: if you're doing more physical activity than usual, and especially if it's warm, you'll need to drink far more water than usual. Make hydration a priority. Ignore supervisors who moan about you 'taking a break' - your health comes first. And alert the Assistant Director or Director to the fact that you won't expect to be marked or assessed on the state of your health, especially not when you're working pretty hard to take care of it. A good Director will already have addressed this with her or his assistant directors and area supervisors.
2. BREAKFAST AND LUNCH - Make sure there are low carb breakfast and lunch options available for PwD
This means finding reasonable replacements for all those breads, jams and cereals that are such a (cheap) (and, frankly, popular) staple of most dig and fieldwork project breakfasts.
PwD are going to need something else - and there are plenty of affordable options. What's available will depend on country, region and season, but some easy suggestions for breakfasts include: fruit such as a banana; plain yogurt; sourdough rye crackers; cheeses such as cottage cheese; coleslaw; hard boiled eggs (can be made the day before); hummus; olives; basic salad vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumber.
Some wholegrain bread - as low carb and high fibre as possible - can also be made available.
Lots of PwD like a small amount of pickled vegetables or vinegar-dressed coleslaw at breakfast because the acetic acid and fibre can help to prevent excessive post-prandial 'spiking' - so having a big tub in the fridge is very useful (it lasts for ages).
Lunch might include various salads; hard-boiled eggs; hummus; tinned sardines; tinned tuna; tinned mackerel; vegetable and lentil soups; sourdough rye crackers; a little wholegrain bread; and cheeses (eg hard cheeses, feta cheese, cottage cheese).
If you really are in the arse-end of nowhere, and living off limited long-life stores, packets of something like Finn Crisp crackers, hard cheeses, tins of sardines, tuna, tomatoes, chickpeas & beans, boxes of onions, other vegetables and eggs, and jars of herbs and spices, are going to be very important.
3. TIMINGS - PwD need some leeway to 'save' food for later
A Fieldwork Kitchen is a very busy and often hectic place and mass servings of meals just cannot be timed around the needs of individuals. They also have to be very organised, day in, day out. On every dig I've ever been on, dinner is eaten in the early evening and plates are all tidied up and stacked for the washing-up rota people. All food that is left on plates or in bowls is scraped into a bin. And everything starts again in the morning ...
For someone monitoring their blood glucose and concerned about a post-prandial 'spike' and a 'low' in the morning, they are going to have some issues with timings. As a solution to this, they might choose to keep back a part a part of their evening meal to have just before they go to bed. It is possible to facilitate this with a tub with their name on that can be kept in the fridge till needed. It's also useful to advise PwD coming to the dig or fieldwork project to 'bring suitable snacks' (eg dried fruit, nuts) if you are going to be miles from the nearest shop.
And do involve the PwD in food prep discussions at least once early on in the fieldwork project.
4. MAIN MEALS - Keep the carbs low to moderate
Fortunately, a lot of things I've found that are recommended to PwD are going to be able to double-up as the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, so a bit of menu planning in advance of the start of the fieldwork is going to be invaluable.
Even pasta now has some lower carb gluten-free (and vegan) alternatives available in regular supermarkets, such as this red lentil pasta. A 50g portion of cooked red lentil pasta (shown in the captioned photo) has 15g of carbs, plus the fibre and protein of the lentils. Served with a tomato-based pasta sauce, either with turkey mince and vegetables, or mushrooms and vegetables, with green vegetables in there, it's a great filling dinner for any hungry worker.
Another dig staple - potatoes - can be easily replaced with lower-carb sweet potatoes and celeriac. They make excellent fries - slice into shape, spray or sprinkle with oil and seasoning; and bake for 20-30 minutes. Roasted vegetables - tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers (capsicums) are excellent. Pulses and beans in moderation such as chickpeas are also good alternatives to potatoes.
5. PUDDINGS AND DESSERTS - Provide alternatives to sugary custard and sponge pudding
Back in the day in Newcastle, after a pizza at the incomparable Mamma Mia's on Bridge Street, I'd often have corn on the cob for pudding. I never had much of a 'sweet tooth' and this was perfect for me. Still is. I eat it without butter or margarine, but a little is fine. I also like an avocado, or half an avocado, as a 'treat'.
Other puddings and desserts include: baked bananas; large slices of melon or watermelon; other fruit and plain yogurt; sourdough rye crackers and cheese. Dark chocolate is ok in moderation - over 80% cacao - so you can grate it onto fruit or, if you have the time, melt it and dip fruit into it. Or just chuck some squares into a bowl with fruit. A little cream is ok too, again in moderation. But no to sugar as an ingredient (obviously), and also no to honey.
Oh, and if you're going to run a 'dig bar' to sell evening drinks because you're miles away from the nearest pub, club or bar & grill, don't just sell beer and coke - try to have some dry wine and soda available.
And keep drinking water.
And so ...
Addressing inclusivity really shouldn't become a chore. It's about planning ahead and everyone being willing to compromise a little. And remember, PwD are taking responsibility for their own health - they're simply asking for a helping hand with fuelling their bodies in the right way.
And by the way - low carb eating is not a fad for PwD - it's a reality, a lifeline, a way of life and a necessity. It keeps their energy levels up, their mental faculties alert, and their health on track. It's really real.