Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
If you can’t make boxty,
You’ll never get a man.
– Traditional Irish poem – Anonymous
Is the recession over?
NO – No new jobs, low GDP growth (2/1/10)
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my short life, it’s not to trust the media. Here we have a sampling of well-respected journals and supposedly learned individuals saying wildly contradictory things. Which, by the way, doesn’t just happen with finance. It happens with nutrition too. Have you noticed?
In my recent search for recession-friendly cuisine, I came upon a simple and dirt-cheap recipe from the Irish Midlands. It’s called Boxty (or bacstaí). Ironically, the Irish were denied the main ingredient for many years during the Potato Famine. Any tubers they produced were shipped over to their oppressors in England. Way, way worse than the recession. And sort of ironic, since most of us think of a potato as a lowly, humble, and really inexpensive staple. Cultures all over the world incorporate potato in their “peasant” cooking – which to my mind ends up being the most satisfying stuff to eat.
Back to boxty. It’s pretty much just a potato pancake, but the recipe contains enough satisfying protein to keep you going. And you can top it with more protein if you desire. It can be prepared gluten free, and I like getting my carbs from non-grain sources, so this dish works well for me. A word of caution: some people don’t do great with potatoes as they can be inflammatory. Pay attention to how you feel after eating it.
Anyway, here’s the recipe, courtesy of Christine Gallary for Chowhound.
- Heat the oven to 200°F.
- Chop half of the potatoes into large dice, place in a medium saucepan, salt generously, and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer potatoes uncovered until fork tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, return potatoes to the pot, add 1/4 cup of the milk, and mash until the potatoes are smooth; set aside.
- Meanwhile, grate the remaining potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. Toss with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and place in a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl until the mashed potatoes are ready.
- With a plastic spatula, press the grated potatoes against the sides and bottom of the strainer to remove any liquid. Add the grated potatoes to the mashed potatoes (no need to stir though).
- Place egg, remaining 1/2 cup milk, flour, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and whisk until smooth, about 10 seconds. Add potatoes and stir until evenly incorporated.
- Heat a large nonstick frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Test to see if the pan is hot enough by sprinkling a couple of drops of cold water in it: If the water bounces and sputters, the pan is ready to use; if it evaporates instantly, the pan is too hot.
- Once the pan is ready, add enough butter to lightly coat the bottom when melted. Drop 3 dollops (about 1/4 cup each) of the batter into the pan and spread each to about 1/4 inch thick. Cook until the pancake bottoms are golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes more. Place on a baking sheet and set in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining butter and batter. Serve warm.
- ROTTEN TOMATOES. Purchasing managers from Kraft, Frito-Lay, Safeway, and B&G Foods have admitted to taking bribes from food processors. As a result, they knowingly fed millions of pounds of mold-tainted tomatoes to Americans. And if you didn’t know already, eating mold is a really bad idea. Just another example of the fact that our food industry does NOT have our best interest at heart.
- WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING. Apparently the movie Wall-E inspired the CEO of Quizno’s to switch to compostable and recyclable packaging. That’s good. But their food is still crappy, so the message feels contradictory. If you get a Coke in a nice eco-friendly compostable cup, it’s still Coke.
- HE’S ALSO A MODEL AND AN ASTROPHYSICIST. Olympic Gold Medal winner. Organic farmer. Bodie, you’re so hot right now.
- s’COOL FOOD. Another school garden. This one’s in Santa Barbara. Funded by the s’Cool Food Initiative (love the name). Keep ‘em coming!!
In various posts I’ve referred to the power and potency of liver, the benefits of raw milk, and the importance of saturated fat – which is NOT associated with heart disease, despite a multi-decade smear campaign!
Why am I into these seemingly disjointed set of foods? The Weston A. Price Foundation. They’re a non-profit dedicated to reintroducing traditional, nutrient-dense foods to the mainstream diet. I’m the volunteer Chapter Leader for Boulder, CO.
So who is this Weston A. Price? I begin many of my talks by describing his work, and always enjoy watching as the audience leans forward, beginning to nod with understanding. He was a dentist practicing in Cleveland at the beginning of last century. Noticing that many of his patients were presenting with massive dental decay, he decided to embark on a world tour to identify the links between nutrition and physical degeneration. In fact, that’s what his subsequent tome is entitled. It’s worth a purchase if only for the graphic and telltale photos of grinning jaw after grinning jaw.
Price explored eleven cultures spread across six different continents. Remarkably, at the time of his expedition, he was able to study the same gene pool in two different habitats, eating two different diets. He traveled to isolated villages where the inhabitants were still eating the same traditional foods they’d been eating for thousands of years. High in protein and fat, organic and local because…well…that’s how it was. Prepared using methods like sprouting, soaking, and fermenting, which made the nutrients more bioavailable and easily digested. Price observed that the individuals eating in this fashion tended to have a very low incidence of dental decay. Their teeth were marvelously strong. Covered with a green slime, certainly, as they did not brush. But strong. They also had round, beautifully formed faces and long, hardy bones, expressing true skeletal health. Their societies appeared rather peacable. And their immune systems functioned superbly.
Price compared these fine specimens with their neighbors down the road, in industrialized settings. Gone were the lovely cod’s heads stuffed with oats and mashed liver. In their place? Marmalade on toast. The city dwellers consumed what he termed “foods of commerce”: sugar and refined grains. Among these urbanites he found a high incidence of tooth decay, as well as rampant tuberculosis. Their immune systems were compromised, and the primary difference was diet. In generations born to the toast-and-marmalade crowd, Price observed crowded, crooked teeth and narrowed faces. Violence, theft, and other destructive behaviors were more prevalent, making a strong case for the connection between emotional and physical health.
It makes sense, right? Your ancestors lived closer to the Earth and had a better sense of what would nourish them. There was no food industry driven by profit. There was only what you grew in your garden, hunted in the woods, or raised in your fields – and the ancient methods of preparing these foods to maximize their nutrients and digestability. We no longer practice many of these techniques on a regular basis – and look at how it’s impacted our population. Maybe it’s time to start reintroducing them, bit by bit.
During WWII, domestically-grown foods were needed to feed hungry armies. In response to the dwindling food supplies, the US Office of Price Administration introduced rationing in 1942, while the UK began rationing in 1941. This ensured equitable distribution.
Here are one person’s sample food rations for one week:
4 oz bacon or ham
8 oz sugar
2 oz tea
2 oz jam spread
1 oz cheese
1 shilling’s worth of meat
8 oz fats of which only 2 oz could be butter
Obviously, this isn’t much food. 4 oz of meat, for example, is considered only one serving by today’s standards.
And here’s a ration book. Each person had one. You can imagine the frustration when one got lost!
In order to supplement their diets, people kept their own chickens and “Victory Gardens”. They also poached rabbits and hares. The government strongly encouraged traditional food preservation methods such as canning, calling them “patriotic”. In 1945 the government introduced the National School Lunch Act in order to provide schoolchildren with a reasonably healthy midday meal (how times have changed).
Ever wonder how some of the “convenience” foods came about? After the war, many new foods borne of military research were introduced to the American public. These included instant coffee and cake mixes.
With the way the foodscape looks today, anyone with a bit of land or even room on their windowsill should consider growing some produce. High-quality food is becoming more and more expensive as oil prices, and therefore transportation costs, steadily climb.
- HIJACKED BY VAMPIRES. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (that’s a government agency, folks) has partnered w/ Diet Coke to help spread “The Heart Truth” and encourage “heart healthy behaviors”. What, like drinking liquid plastic with caramel coloring? Yeah, that’s great for your heart. Ironically, their non-diet product, Coke, contains HFCS. That’s been directly linked to heart disease. Just more sad evidence that the government is NOT necessarily looking out for your best interests, particularly when it comes to health and nutrition.
- EQUAL OPPORTUNITY DEATH. In Los Angeles, one can now use food stamps at such fine dining establisments as Dominos and Jack in the Box. From the program’s leader: “Our goal is to provide healthy meals for the homeless, disabled and elderly participants”. ??? Jill Richardson of La Vida Locavore replies: “As a bleeding heart liberal, I am outraged for ethical reasons, but as a taxpayer, I am outraged as well. The same group that is eligible for food stamps is often eligible for Medicaid. So, great, go give them diabetes so that we can pay for treating it for the rest of their lives”. San Francisco’s Ferry Building Farmer’s Market takes food stamps - at least they did when I used to volunteer for CUESA – but I thought that was on the other end of laughable. All $5 will buy you there is a cup of Blue Bottle coffee or perhaps an heirloom chocolate pepper.
- LOCAVORES ARE LIKE COMMUNIST CHINA. A recent New York Times piece compares locavorism to an initiative by Chairman Mao (huh?) and questions its viability “as much of the East Coast lies blanketed beneath a foot or more of snow”. Mr. Darlin, just how did you think people ate during the winter for the past, oh, I don’t know, 40,000 years? By using food preservation techniques that have been lost to the mainstream only with the advent of industrialized food, of course. He should check out this website.
Perhaps you’re wondering what bacon is doing on a weight loss site.
Well, as I’ve said many times before, eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Refined carbs and sugar make you fat. Eating “foodlike substances” such as soda, candy, pop tarts and fast food make you fat. Eating too much makes you fat. Too much estrogen and poor liver function make you fat. Skipping meals makes you fat. Stress, insomnia, and lack of exercise make you fat.
Good-quality bacon makes you full. It also makes your mouth do a little dance because it just tastes so good.
Oh, and it’s got B vitamins too
This dish has several advantages:
1. It’s protein-dense. Why are people so obsessed with protein for weight loss? There are a number of reasons. A couple of the most important: it keeps your blood sugar stable, and it’s thermogenic. That means that just by digesting the protein you’ll burn 30% of its calories.
2. It’s a great way to sneak in greens. Lettuce is a no-brainer, but sometimes people aren’t overly excited about the bitter greens like kale, mustard greens, and collard greens. These babies are drenched in onion/black bean/bacon juice and they’ll go down easy.
3. It’s filling. With plenty of delicious fat, it will keep you satisfied for hours.
4. It’s well-rounded. You’ve got each macronutrient represented: protein, fat, and carb. And it goes without saying that it wouldn’t be on this site if it weren’t nutritious. Nothing refined or synthetic about any of these ingredients.
(please note that I have nothing against hamburgers…just fast food burgers)
1 bunch greens (collard and mustard work best)
4 slices bacon
1 can black beans
salt and pepper
As always, all ingredients should be as organic / local as possible.
1. Chop up onion and bacon and fry them in a pot. You won’t need any oil because of the bacon fat.
2. Wash and chop your bunch of greens and add them to the pot along with about 1 cup of water.
3. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
4. Add black beans, and salt and pepper to taste.
5. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Last weekend at the Boulder Film Festival I watched a wonderful short called Dive!. This film follows the narrator and director, Jeremy Seifert, and his small crew of dumpster-diving friends as they explore the refuse of Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles. Night after night, they find that an abundance of food in perfectly good condition has been discarded by grocery stores. A bag of avocadoes is trashed because of one rotten fruit. Organic, free-range meat is tossed because it’s approaching the expiration date – a date manufacturers use to avoid lawsuits rather than an indication of the food’s freshness. Seifert has to purchase an extra freezer because of all the loot he collects, and he, his wife, their 2 year old son and friends feast on this bounty.
The film goes beyond tales of the gourmet meals the divers create from trash. Seifert explains, “It’s about more than not wasting food. It’s about making sure everybody has enough to eat.” He wonders why, in a city where he can find such culinary abundance in a dumpster, thousands of people are going hungry. He attempts to reach the corporate headquarters of various supermarkets in order to ask about their practices of discarding food, but he is repeatedly stonewalled. He finds that working on the individual level is more effective. One New Year’s Eve, he connects with a local, friendly Trader Joe’s to bring their haul of dumpster-bound goods to a halfway house.
Offering statistics on world hunger and interviews with a busy, struggling food bank, the film reveals the disjointedness inherent in a culture that casually engages in massive waste, yet virtually ignores its own suffering citizens. Twenty percent of landfill is food, and much of it is edible. Seifert’s son Finn provides a ray of hope for the next generation. Tooling around in his toy car, he announces “Don’t food waste”.
I was reminded that we can all do this on an individual level.
- Think twice before you toss. Throwing those odds and ends into a shake or stew, not the trash can.
- Consider asking your grocery stores about their waste policies and whether they have a donation program to local food banks.
- You might even want to try a little dumpster diving yourself. It’s not illegal to take someone’s trash (as far as I know. But if it is in your county, don’t try it)!
Here’s the link to the film if you want to learn more.
*This is not an endorsement of dumpster diving…just an exploration of alternate ways of living ;)*
- da Vinci, Donatello and da burger. Italy’s Minister of Agriculture is talking up the Italian McDonald’s new McItaly burger. He’s even used an official government seal of approval customarily seen on museum exhibits. Naturally, many Italians such as Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini are questioning this lapse in taste. Carlo initially founded Slow Food in 1986 in response to the installation of Italy’s first McDonald’s.
- Poison Poisons Us…Who’d Have Thought? When people are making the decision to switch from conventional produce to organic, sometimes they need some specific examples about the effects of pesticides and herbicides. Here’s a lovely one.
- A Slow Day In Calgary. The president of the Calgary Liberated Urban Chicken Klub (CLUCK) has been charged with “keeping livestock”. Here is a photo of him getting a ticket. Fight the power, Paul!
- Map Your Food. The USDA has developed a new Food Environment Atlas. Maps include access and proximity to grocery stores, food prices at stores, health, socioeconomic characteristics, and more. Check out your state and see how you measure up!
Today I have the good fortune to interview Marissa Reddy, Peet’s core training leader of the Boston and Chicago district. You may be familiar with Peet’s. It’s a leading coffee and tea emporium based out of Emeryville, CA, with locations in Boston, Chicago, Colorado, Seattle, Portland, and California. And it’s tasty.
As I’ve discussed in previous posts, while green tea can be a great choice for weight loss, caffeine itself creates a blood sugar spike by forcing the adrenals to release cortisol. So despite popular belief, if you are interested in slimming down, three lattes per day is not your best bet. However, if you do choose to indulge, be certain to select a well-made brew. Here Marissa discusses Peet’s dedication to quality.
STEPHANIE: What exactly does a core training leader do?
MARISSA: Well, good question. Peet’s has never advertised….no print, media, whatsoever. Mr. Peet believed that if you educated your customer, they would come back, and tell their friends. So knowledge is a huge piece of being a Peet’s employee. My job is to be sure that the people behind the counter know what it is they’re selling and understand all of the effort behind it, from the tea estate to the coffee farm to the buyers to the roasters.
STEPHANIE: Marissa, what is is about Peet’s that makes it so much better than all of the other chain coffee stores?
MARISSA: When Alfred Peet first started the company in 1966, he founded it based on three product tenents, which are still strictly adhered to. The first one is selection – how we choose what we sell. Peet’s practices long-term direct buying, so our average coffee contract with a grower is 5-7 years. We’ve been buying from a lot of the same people for the last 30 years. We buy directly from growers whenever possible as opposed to using middle men. This way we know exactly what we’re getting, and we’re aware of every step the coffee or tea has been through. It also gives us a lot of freedom to dialogue with growers about their methods.
We have two coffee buyers and one tea buyer who are solely responsible for buying all of our products. Many other companies use boards or committees. Our method allows us to be incredibly selective.
STEPHANIE: Wow, what a job that would be! How does one get hired as the sole tea buyer for Peet’s?
MARISSA: In this case, he started as a regular retail salesperson, tasted a lot, and slowly developed a reputation as someone with a very good palate and attention to detail. He developed a lot of the training we use – lesson plans, product knowledge. Then he was asked to take over the tea department. He’s been with Peet’s about 25 years.
STEPHANIE: You mentioned two other tenets. What are they?
MARISSA: The second one is artisanship. This is probably my favorite because it is the area that Peet’s has most control over. In terms of coffee, it’s the belief that coffee needs to be roasted by hand in very small batches and it is a craft. To become a master roaster for Peet’s takes ten years of apprenticeship so it’s very much treated as a skill you have to master. There are only eight roasters right now, I believe. It’s a small group responsible for roasting a whole lot of coffee.
The third tenent is freshness. That means that for coffee we don’t sell anything in retail stores that was roasted more than ten days ago. All our coffee is served within thirty minutes of being brewed and our espresso shots are only ten seconds old.
STEPHANIE: Does that mean you end up wasting a lot of coffee?
MARISSA: Yes, and from a manager’s perspective that is very tricky in terms of managing your inventory and also training your staff to be cognisant and respectful of the product. Respect the bean! When you go in a grocery store, or even most coffee shops, you probably don’t even know when it’s been roasted. And the staff might not either.
*note: Stephanie and BODA are in no way affiliated with Peet’s. We just like artisan food and companies with integrity.
Was it just me, or was January a weird month? I’m glad it’s over. And I am happy to say that February seems to be going swimmingly thus far. In optimistic spirit, I bring you…the First Friday in February edition of News Bites. Brew up a mug of tea and read along.
- SUGAR: PART OF YOUR COMPLETE BREAKFAST. What are students at H.D. Cooke Elementary in D.C. dining on at 7 am? Kellogg’s Crunchmania Cinnamon Buns, chocolate milk, and grape juice. And no, grape juice does not count as one serving of fruit. Its sugar level is 50 percent higher than that of Coca-Cola. I wonder how many of those sugar-infused children are being “diagnosed” with ADHD or anxiety and put on Ritalin.
- NIRVANA AND URBAN GARDENS. The city known for McDreamy, coffee, and grunge is designating 2010 the Year of Urban Agriculture. One goal: to “encourage residents to get their hands in the soil”. Nice. A number of initiatives, including a new urban food bank farm, are planned. With food prices escalating and oil peaking, the future lies in looking to the past, with household and community gardens providing fresh, local produce. It makes sense.
- WE NEED A NEW SYSTEM. Fewer than 1% of US farms are organic, per the USDA. This despite the increasing demand for organic products. We MUST vote with our dollar and demonstrate our unhappiness with the mono / factory farm culture by buying products that are created in a more sustainable way. On a positive note, California’s organic operations account for 20% of the state’s farming operations. Go Cali!
- POO SALAD. While there are always creepy crawlies on, around and in us, some foods harbor more than others. A recent Consumer Report indicated that pre-packaged bags of leafy greens contain high levels of bacteria that are indicators of poor sanitation and fecal matter. I have inherent suspicion of anything packaged. Why would you pre-package leafy greens, anyway? Is it THAT hard to pull a plastic bag off the hanging thingie and shovel some of your spinach in?
Coconut milk itself may not fall under “recession cuisine”. One can of organic, full-fat coco milk equals nearly $2. But I will tell you that a little splash of it goes a looooong way towards filling you up with delicious fats. And that’s what recession cuisine is about: stretching your dollar while maximizing your nutrient intake.
“COCONUT?!” you may be saying. “Isn’t this a WEIGHT LOSS SITE?” Well, yes. The fact is, we’ve been fed some really skewed information about fats. Saturated fats in particular. We NEED them! And coconut milk’s a wonderful source. Ironically, studies have found that eating enough saturated fat actually supports the weight loss process.
Here are just a few of coconut milk’s benefits:
- It’s been shown to aid weight loss by speeding up the metabolism.
- The lauric acid in coconut milk is anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial, so it helps boost the immune system, which is your body’s defense against illness.
- It contains potassium, calcium, chloride, Vitamin A and Vitamin E, so it’s great for your skin and hair.
Do I have you convinced yet?
Now, I KNOW you like the sound of coconut milk shake. How could you not? What if I told you that drinking about 12 oz of this shake kept me full for six hours? Everyone’s body is different, so I can’t guarantee the same results for you. But if you’d like to experiment, try blending up the following:
- splash of coconut milk
- splash of any other “milk” (dairy, almond, rice, hemp)
- organic frozen berries (another recession cuisine idea, as they are cheaper than fresh. I like to use cranberries, blackberries and blueberries)
- spoonful of almond butter
- Stevia to taste (just a few drops should do it)
- optional: raw egg (I don’t recommend eating them at ALL if you’re getting feedlot, non-organic, gross factory farmed eggs, but I get them from a good source and like adding them to my diet every so often)
- optional: raw cacao nibs (I happened to have some on hand and they add a nice chocolaty crunch)
I have a new niece. Her neck smells like a corn chip and looks like a thick white sausage. Her body resembles a cross between a pig and a cow. She’s very noisy and she likes to chew on my comforter.
You’ve probably guessed by now that she’s a dog (that would be kinda horrible if she wasn’t, right?). Her name is Mason. In our house she is also known as Pigcow. She’s a Staffordshire Terrier, a very dominant lady. She also happens to have red, ouchy-looking skin (that’s a clinical diagnosis) on her lower abdominal and pelvic area. The first time I saw it I gasped in sympathy. I put a little coconut oil on it but she promptly licked it off.
“I’ve tried everything,” said her mom. She didn’t want to put Pigcow on steroids but was starting to consider it. Pigcow was so itchy that she sometimes dragged her underbelly along the floor. Pigcow’s mother, who is apparently good at making lemonade out of lemons, has now taught her to hump on command by synchronizing the word with Pigcow’s attempts to relieve her pain.
Like most pets, Pigcow is on a diet that her owner considers pretty good quality. But animals were made to eat raw meat. Our pets don’t. And if they’re fortunate enough to get some treats occasionally, it’s often the feedlot, corn and soy raised, antibiotic and hormone infested meat that most human Americans eat. Like our pets, we aren’t eating our native diet. So none of us are getting the nutrients we need. And many humans aren’t doing a whole lot better than Pigcow.
People don’t often connect skin problems and allergies with digestion. They are intimately related. I figured Pigcow would benefit from Cod Liver Oil, which provides supplemental Omega 3s and Vitamin A for her skin. She’s also getting a whole foods vitamin designed especially for pets (to replace what their food leaves out), and Quercitin for her allergies. It’s early days but her skin’s not looking quite as raw and red.
Many of you are probably reading this and getting ready to email me about your pet’s skin problems. I welcome that, and I think that’s great. I know you’d do anything for Fluffy. But I also notice people often treat their pets better than they treat themselves. Skin, hair, and nails can be a great barometer for your internal health. Are YOU experiencing any problems? Are you jumping at the opportunity to heal Fluffy’s pain, but ignoring your own?
- STATE OF THE UNION’S LUNCH. Although President Obama called for a freeze on domestic programs during Wednesday night’s State of the Union address, Debra Eschmeyer argues that childrens’ nutrition should remain a priority. The US Department of Ag recently reported that in 2008, 1 in 4 children went hungry. 1 in 3 children will develop Type II Diabetes – 1 in 2 if the child is Black or Hispanic. Fun fact: the School Lunch Program was initially developed to prepare young men for military service. But today, 27% percent of the population are too overweight to serve.
- MANIFEST DENSITY. No, that’s not a typo. Asserting that “America is great because we outconsume every other nation”, Steve Colbert calls on us to, well, get fatter. I’m of two minds about this clip. It’s a typical Daily Show sketch – a pointed indictment of the American sociopolitical machine. That I like. But in some ways it’s also pretty insensitive to fat people.
- FRUIT’S ROOTS. A Gallup poll indicates that fewer Americans ate fruits and vegetables in 2009 than in 2008. The USDA’s famous recommendation is, of course, five servings per day. Does anyone know what a serving size looks like? It’s not just “any time you eat the food”. For instance, it’s half a cup of veggies, or a cup of raw leafy greens. And while we’re on the subject of vegetables, I’d like to repeat what one of my brilliant holistic nutrition professors said. The phrase “fruits and vegetables” should really be “vegetables and fruits”. Vegetables contain everything fruits do, and more. Fruits are great, but they’re sugary. They actually evolved to spike our blood sugar so we’d gain a little weight going into the winter. So this isn’t about “I’m healthy because today I had grapes, a mango, a piece of watermelon and some strawberries”. Fruits are treats. Healthy treats. Better for you than sugary and refined foods, but still treats. I really don’t think we need three pieces a day.
- FRANKENWORMS. Frankencorn has made its way into soil-dwelling animals, such as worms. I could make a joke here about how everything’s made of corn nowadays, but I don’t find this situation funny. Everything we do on this planet impacts everything else. What are the implications of GMO food slowly taking over??
It’s free. It comes out of our faucets. It comprises about 75% of both the Earth and our bodies. You can get it distilled or filtered or bubbly. You can add lemon or lime or ice cubes. But water?? That’s not a food.
No, it’s not. And I’m not suggesting you substitute your meals with water. But it’s a commonly overlooked and crucial substance. It’s particularly key for weight loss because it helps the liver metabolize fat. It helps flush toxins out of your body. It improves muscle tone (hydrated muscles contract more easily). And most of us don’t drink nearly enough of it.
The recession part? It’s free. At least for now. The cuisine part? Sometimes when you’re hungry, sleepy, headachy, or craving sugar, you actually need water instead. A few weeks ago I was at the tail end of a nasty bug, fever and GI symptoms included. I’d hardly had anything to drink…because…well…I couldn’t really keep anything down. And I developed a monster of a headache. As in, every time I shifted position, my head felt like a gong that had been smacked soundly by a sumo wrestler. I was concerned. What was going on? My brilliant boyfriend, who also happens to be a naturopathic doctor, suggested the obvious: dehydration. Sure enough, after sipping some water over a period of a few hours, it dissipated. You’d expect me to come up with this answer on my own, being a nutritionist and all, but it can be easy to forget about the basics.
Having trouble fitting the clear magical liquid into your life? Feeling confused about filtered vs distilled, flat vs bubbly? Here are a few of my top tips for effective H2O consumption. They’re good. Read ‘em all.
1. It’s great to aim for 8 glasses per day, but don’t drink them all at once – the body can’t absorb it. Instead, drink smaller amounts throughout the day.
2. If you have difficulty getting excited about drinking water, try purchasing a really fun cup or Sigg, and have it near you at all times. You can add flavorings like the aforementioned citrus, auditory stimulation like clinking ice cubes, or even a dash of tea or a FEW drops of juice to make it more palatable. Also try envisioning one pound melting off for each day you drink 8 glasses. It doesn’t quite work that directly but it can be good motivation.
3. The body absorbs flat better than bubbly. But bubbly’s far better than none at all.
4. It’s a good idea to filter your water. You can buy a home filtration machine or a Brita filter. Distilled refers to the process of removing minerals from the water – you don’t want that.
5. Please try to refrain from buying water in plastic bottles! They’re horrible for the environment. Get something you can use and re-use, like a glass bottle or a Sigg. Also, if you do happen to have your water (or any other drink) in a plastic bottle, make sure it doesn’t get hot. Heat causes the toxins from the plastic to leach into the fluid. Yum!
6. Caffeine does not equal water. If you’re drinking black tea or green tea or decaf coffee, that’s not water. Caffeine is, in fact, dehydrating. However, herbal tea is like water with herbal benefits. I know many people think “gross” when I say “herbal tea”. I used to. Try experimenting with flavors. Go to your local health food store and ask them what they would recommend for people who think most herbal tea is gross. I like rooibos myself.
7. Remember that we’re all interconnected. This web that links us all is particularly evident in the water supply. Reducing your use of toxic chemicals can help lighten the load on the earth. Installing a water-saving shower head contributes to conservation of this precious material. Try to tread lightly!
I had an inspirational (and busy) weekend. Standout themes: community, spirituality, and food. With a background in clinical social work, part of me usually has an ear cocked to the effects of my individual actions on the larger society. And if you’re dedicated to food, sooner or later you will run across its social, economic, political, and cultural repercussions. Here’s how this process unfolded for me on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
I spent Friday afternoon preparing food for a Shamanic Journeying class. Shamanism is the oldest spiritual tradition known to humankind. It’s been around since we first emerged on the scene. If that phrase “shamanic journeying” makes you go “huh??”, follow this link for a nice explanation of what it is.
Anyway, as many of us know, food can be a great tool for grounding. If we were going to be visiting non-ordinary reality, we’d probably need some treats to help our physical bodies reconnect with the Earth. But which foods would best facilitate that? Twizzlers and Coke? Crepes and crudite? A few weeks ago I sat with this question and allowed my intuition to dictate a menu. I went with what emerged. Here’s what came up (all ingredients were organic whenever possible):
- trail mix composed of raw pecans, unsweetened dried cherries, apple juice sweetened cranberries, raw cacao nibs, malt grain sweetened dark chocolate chips.
- kale chips seasoned with apple cider vinegar, salt, garlic powder, agave and cayenne, baked in the oven.
- spaghetti squash mixed with butter, cinnamon, maple syrup and a pinch of salt.
- corn cakes prepared with corn, milk, butter and salt.
I proposed the menu to the group leader and she loved it. Later, I realized:
- the corn cakes to which I had referred were actually called “Journey Cakes” in my Arkansas cookbook (how appropriate!)
- I had quite a few native foods represented: corn, squash, cranberries, cacao / chocolate, maple syrup
What does this mean? I don’t know. Interesting coincedences? Spirit requesting foods that were indigenous to this part of the world? My subconscious making puns? Whatever it was, the menu worked. The recipes offered seemed to be just what the participants needed.
Saturday night I went to the annual Slow Food meeting for the Boulder Chapter. Bookcliff Vineyards hosted, with a delicious wine tasting during the meet and greet portion of the evening. We had a scrumptious pot luck (Morroccan lamb pie, anyone?) and the people were lovely.
Elections were held during the actual meeting. Then the floor opened for members to suggest event ideas for 2010. And of course, I had many. Would you expect anything less? I’m the Boulder Chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation, and we have quite a bit of overlap with Slow Food in terms of obsession with and dedication to food, but also I’d say that as a generalization we’re more focused on nutrition and traditional, nutrient-dense foods. I hoped we could partner with Slow Food, and I made the following suggestions:
1. Monthly Speaker Series on nutrition. As focused we are in Boulder on holistic health, I’ve been really surprised at the lack of a central meeting place for regular, free or low cost public health talks. Sure, there are a few establishments around town that host, but the turnout isn’t great. In fact, as a speaker I was even cautioned about this issue when planning local presentations. I’d discussed this with Cafe of Life and we’d decided to work on filling this vacuum with compelling presentations and delicious food. I invited Slow Food to partner with us.
2. Food Film Festival. Again, I wonder why Boulder, of all places, doesn’t have one. Last spring I started dreaming about what it would take to create a simple weekend of three or four films and a panel discussion.
The Film Festival idea was particularly well-received. So we’ll see what emerges from these projects. I like serving the community, and I like getting people excited about food. Now if only I could figure out a way to get paid for it…
- OUR NOBLE FRIENDS TO THE NORTH. Referencing the fact that 28% of their students are overweight or obese, Ontario schools have banned the sale of soda, fries and candy on school premises. Quite logical, right? Why can’t the US follow in their footsteps? Perhaps it has something to do with the subsidies our public schools receive from the aforementioned industries. Wouldn’t it be nice if they received more money from the government instead?
- FOOD IN HAITI. Here’s an interesting article on Haitian agriculture. Once a self sufficient rice producer, the country was forced to open its economy to cheap US food imports. Local food producers cannot compete with these subsidized products. This sad story is repeating around the globe.
- COWS = LAWNMOWERS AND FERTILIZERS. Time Magazine reports on the ability of grass-fed cattle to enrich the soil. This is a wonderful piece to read if you want to argue that eating meat doesn’t HAVE to be a drain on the ecosystem. It’s all in the process.
We all know how cheap eggs are. You might as well pay the extra buck for organic. It hardly breaks the bank, and you’re getting far better nutrition. Eggs are an awesome source of protein, and don’t listen to the naysayers who preach against saturated fat: we NEED saturated fat!
Everyone’s used to eggs in the morning, right? Scrambled. Fried. In an omelet. They’re a great way to sneak veggies in to your morning meal: I like to add mushrooms or spinach or zucchini. However, for the purposes of recession cuisine – expanding our minds about how to create the cheapest, healthiest and tastiest meals possible – I like to add them to an evening meal every so often. Here are a couple of creative ways I’ve used eggs for my dinner protein.
THAI INSPIRED EGG AND RICE
veggies of your choice – try bamboo shoots, green and red peppers, onions…
1. Boil rice in equal parts coconut milk and water. Add a few drops of Stevia to make it sweet.
2. Saute veggies in coconut oil.
3. Fry egg(s) in coconut oil.
4. Combine, and drizzle with fish sauce and lime juice to taste.
ITALIAN INSPIRED EGG AND PASTA
gluten free pasta
greens of your choice: I like beet greens or spinach with this dish
1. Boil pasta
2. Saute greens in olive oil and garlic.
3. Fry egg in olive oil.
4. Combine. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I’ve been reading a lot of weight loss / diet / health blogs lately, and I’m trying to figure out where mine falls.
I’m in the position of advice-giving expert. I have my Master’s in Clinical Social Work, and my certificate in Holistic Nutrition. I work with people (mostly women) to create a positive relationship with food. I really love what I do.
But sometimes it’s boring to read a blog that’s just telling you “do this” and “do that”. Sometimes you want to know more about the actual person behind the blog. And I’ve arrived in this position precisely because of my own journey with food. So I’ve decided to share a little more about me.
I grew up eating pretty horribly. The earliest meals I remember were Cocoa Krispies and pb&j sandwiches. In high school, a typical day consisted of a granola bar at breakfast, a brownie for lunch, chips and salsa after school, and some random concoction for dinner – leftovers, takeout, white pasta with sauce from a can. If a vegetable happened to make its way into my mouth it was probably on a slice of pizza, or had been microwaved within an inch of its life. Oh, and I was a vegetarian…who, I recently discovered, was allergic to both soy and milk. So any protein I was ingesting was wreaking havoc on my digestive system.
I was obsessed with sugar. I ate it every day, multiple times per day. I also had numerous health problems. For instance, the summer I was fourteen, I went to Switzerland. You can probably imagine my favorite activity there: pounding chocolate. I came back with severe acne that remained with me for years. All the dermatologists told me “diet has nothing to do with it” and wrote me prescription upon prescription. At one point I was applying 4 different lotions topically and taking a low dose of antibiotic. Now I know antibiotic is one of the worst things you can do to your gut. I was also on birth control, another gut wrecker. My sugar cravings got worse and worse. I had excema, brutal PMS, really unstable moods, and other issues that are a little too personal to go into. And of all the medical practitioners I visited, no one ever questioned my diet.
By my mid-twenties, I was a practicing psychotherapist living in San Francisco. I didn’t know how to cook, and I ate things like apples for breakfast and protein bars for lunch. No wonder I binged on sugar two or three times per week – I was starving. I really had no desire to change my eating habits either. As far as I was concerned, eating healthy meant half a grapefruit and salads with fat free dressing and cottage cheese. And NO SUGAR. When I ate that way I was hungry, and I didn’t enjoy myself!
Eventually a friend connected me with her holistic nutrition counselor. I started to see her when I was 26, and I began to get a bit of a handle on how to eat. I learned what a meal should look like, and I learned how to cook really basic things that also tasted good (hint: it’s all about the seasoning). Before long I was assisting cooking classes. As I improved my food choices, many of my symptoms began to lessen. And within two years I had decided to embark on my own course of study of nutrition.
Now I work with people on their relationship to food because I think food is a wonderful, simple metaphor for how you live the rest of your life. If you’re willing to learn to cook, that means you’re ready to start taking care of yourself – at least a little bit. If you’re ready to explore your food addictions, it means you’re ready to look at some difficult dynamics and face some potentially unpleasant emotions. By supporting people both nutritionally and emotionally, I feel I can support the whole person.
And so often, we’ve bought into myths about food! Healthy diets do NOT consist of grapefruit and salad…well, not ONLY grapefruit and salad. There’s room for butter and meat and cream and maple syrup and all kinds of whole, satiating foods. Very often, I see people who are eating too little, then go off the rails, as I used to do. They think it’s an issue of willpower. That always makes me sad. In reality, they just don’t know how to eat supportively day to day in order to feel satisfied.
So that’s a little about my own journey. I believe in what I do because I saw it work for me, and I’ve seen it work for many others. Food is endlessly fascinating precisely because it’s so powerful. We’re only made up of what we eat – nothing else.
So I couldn’t get it together to write Friday News Bites this week. Well, here you go…a well-rested, exercised and brunched version. Happy reading!
- A GAY COUPLE WITH KIDS. Move over, Jersey Shore. A fabulous gay couple from NYC learns biodynamic farming in Planet Green’s latest reality tv series. And yes, some of their activities involve goats, hence the pun. I’d much rather watch this than orange oompa loompas with too much hair gel. But I don’t have a tv.
- ANOTHER ONE FOR THE DUH FILES. In case you need proof, the California Department of Education discusses the efficacy of environment-based education: specifically, school gardens. Apparently, if you are involved in creating a school garden, you learn more about nutrition and are more likely to eat vegetables. Who’d have thought?
- AN UNFORTUNATE REASON FOR GROWTH. Check out this WSJ chart of the recession’s impact on various jobs. Waaay down in the bottom right hand corner you’ll see that “community food services” grew by 11.5%. When unemployment’s high, food banks become crucial.
- FOOD TRENDS FOR 2010. Marion Nestle, nutritionist extrordinaire, predicts the ten most pressing food issues for 2010. Hunger, childhood obesity, and food regulations top of the list.
And we’re back with recession cuisine Tuesdays. I know it’s been a minute. But I’m sure our collective post-holiday bank accounts have many of us scraping the backs of the cupboards to make tuna-carrot-millet surprise. Oh, that’s just me? I tend to get too personal in these blogs sometimes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. One of the best ways to save money is to cook your own food. It’s also one of the best ways to eat nutritiously and lose weight. Sounds like a win-win situation, right? Well…the problem is that so many of us live such busy lives that a healthy dinner is often a pizza with vegetables on it! Yes, I know that trick, telling yourself it’s good for you because you ordered it with onions and peppers. Well, it’s better than nothing, of course.
But here’s what I tell my clients. Our culture is sorely lacking in tradition. Can you decide to start a new tradition? On Sundays – and this is particularly nice in the winter – cook up a bubbling vat of stew. It’ll perfume the house with the scents of caring, love, garlic. It’ll make you feel all homey and cosy. You’ll have something to eat off of for a couple days. And you’ll feel virtuous, because you saved money.
Here’s your first recipe for Sunday Stew Day. There are more under ‘recession cuisine’.Â Sobaheg is Wampanoag (one of the Native American tribes in Massachusetts) for ‘stew’. How appropriate! Now remember, people traditionally did not use recipes. They threw whatever was handy into a pot. So in that sense, the tuna-carrot-millet surprise is actually a pretty traditional way of cooking. This sobaheg recipe draws on ingredients that would have been local to this tribe. The method of cooking was recorded by English settlers in the late 1600s, and the recipe itself appears on the website for Plimoth Plantation - a fantastic recreation of the colonists’ original community in what is now Plymouth, MA.
Â½ pound dry beans (white, red, brown, or spotted kidney-shaped beans)
Â½ pound yellow samp or coarse grits
1 pound turkey meat (legs or breast, with bone and skin)
3 quarts cold water
Â¼ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
Â½ pound winter squash, trimmed and cubed
Â½ cup raw sunflower seed meats, pounded to a coarse flour
Combine dried beans, corn, turkey, and water in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, turn down to a very low simmer, and cook for about 2 Â½ hours. Stir occasionally to be certain that the bottom is not sticking.
When dried beans are tender, but not mushy, break up turkey meat, removing skin and bones. Add green beans and squash, and simmer very gently until they are tender.
Add sunflower flour, stirring until thoroughly blended.