More and More Recipes

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 Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.

–Voltaire

 

Hungry? I am, so let me tell you about the dinner I had last night.  It started, as most of my meals start, with looking in the refrigerator. Sometimes I eat something because I crave it, but I rarely crave things anymore. As a result, my creativity doesn’t spark till I look to see what I have and think let’s do something with that beef besides just eat it as steak.

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Run For Your Life!

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Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.  ― Haruki Murakami

 

No doubt many of you saw the headlines last week claiming that running 5 minutes a day could significantly lower a person’s risk of dying prematurely. Like me, I’m sure you were deeply excited by this. The articles have been more fascinating than the actual supposed breakthrough information, frankly. Fascinating as exercises in the illogical. If I still taught logic classes, I would absolutely choose these to help me illustrate how not to think.

For decades, researchers there have been collecting information about the health of tens of thousands of men and women visiting the clinic for a check-up. These adults, after completing extensive medical and fitness examinations, have filled out questionnaires about their exercise habits, including whether, how often and how speedily they ran.

From this database, the researchers chose the records of 55,137 healthy men and women ages 18 to 100 who had visited the clinic at least 15 years before the start of the study. Of this group, 24 percent identified themselves as runners, although their typical mileage and pace varied widely.

I was going to say that with this quote we stumble and flail onto our faces over the first problem in the article. But of course that’s not actually the first problem. The article begins by telling us that doctors have basically been making up numbers. Run for X minutes a day! Or maybe walk really fast for twice that long! There has been, according to the author of this foolishness, almost no science to back up these numbers. But mark: having no proof is no reason we shouldn’t push it on people! Oh yes.

Just Do It.

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American Cuisine

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I am proud to be an American. Because an American can eat anything on the face of this earth as long as he has two pieces of bread. -Bill Cosby

Well, friends, it has been some time. I’ve been having a vacation. I don’t think I’ve ever had one like this before. I’ve had a week off at a time here and there, and once in a while two weeks. But this was four whole weeks almost mostly off (I had to finish a few editing projects that wait for no one’s vacation). And on my vacation in America I have learned some very important things. This is my second time to really observe Americans in the wild since eating differently, and here’s some of what I gleaned:

1. 4 weeks is way too long for a vacation. Probably some of you already knew this, and frankly when you’ve gotten an international plane ticket it just makes sense to use all the time you can. It’s not like you can just spring for another one and hop back over for a week in the fall. But still. One week is awesome. Two weeks is still ok. But after at that, you just want to get back to work. At least I did.

2. American food is garbage. I’m sorry, but it just is. People eat appalling, APPALLING things. And by appalling, I mean horrifying. And by horrifying, I mean things that aren’t food.

Seriously. Maybe it’s impossible to see this unless you stand outside the situation a bit. Maybe it’s hard to taste this unless you don’t taste it for long periods and then are suddenly thrown back into it. But this is the kind of garbage I saw people putting into their mouths, without any thought that it might be toxic to them:

soy

NO NO NO NO NO NO, people. No. Put it back. This is disgusting. Here’s what’s in it:

Ingredients: ORGANIC SOYMILK (WATER, ORGANIC SOYBEANS), ORGANIC DRIED CANE SYRUP, ORGANIC TAPIOCA SYRUP, ORGANIC COCOA POWDER PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, ORGANIC SOYBEAN OIL, TAPIOCA DEXTROSE, LOCUST BEAN GUM, NATURAL FLAVOR, GUAR GUM, CARRAGEENAN.

Ok, first of all, soy is not good for you at all. But what about the Chinese! I hear you shrieking. Well, what about them? Are YOU Chinese? Have your ancestors been eating enormous quantities of this food for thousands of years? No. And how do the Chinese eat soy? Do you really think that the way the Chinese naturally ferment their soybeans (a process which drastically changes the digestibility of a food, increasing our ability to absorb nutrition and decreasing the effects of antinutrients along the way) s the same as when you eat scoopfuls of this stuff? And not just the soy in your soy ice cream, but the soy in your regular ice cream and in your cream and in your gum and in your candy bars and in your snacks and in nearly every processed food you put in your mouth. And what about the amount of soy the Chinese eat? Soy is eaten in enormous quantities today, but that is a new thing. You’ve been told a tale by the soy industry concerning this “sacred” part of the Asian diet. The tale is simply not true. Not to mention that the soy you’re eating is not at all the same as the soy Wang was eating 1,000 years ago.

Second, just think of the amount of sugar you’re ingesting here. 14g in a half a cup and hardly any fat. Recipe for disaster.

Third, locust bean gum, guar gum and carrageenan are junk. They’re all “natural.” That’s true. But in “nature” neither you nor any animal eat a ton of dried, ground up locust bean gum. The Japanese don’t sit around extracting the carrageenan from their seaweed and then drinking big jugs of it. No one can actually tell you the effect of eating this non-food in huge quantities as it is added to everything you eat. All of them are associated with gastrointestinal problems of one kind or another.

Finally, what is the “natural flavor” in this stuff? That’s what I’d like to know. Is that “natural” in the way the carrageenan is natural? If you’ve already got cocoa in there, what other “natural” flavor could you possibly be using in your chocolate frozen non-dairy dessert? When I make chocolate anything, know what I use? Chocolate.

fudge rounds

Oh, here we go. Want to know what’s in that? Enriched Bleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Barley Malt, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Sugar, Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And Cottonseed Oil With Tbhq To Preserve Flavor, Dextrose, Water, Cocoa, Palm And Palm Kernel Oil. Contains 2% Or Less Of Each Of The Following: Whey (Milk), Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Colors (Caramel Color, Titanium Dioxide, Red 40, Blue 2 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake), Salt, Emulsifiers (Sorbitan Monostearate, Polysorbate 60, Mono- And Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Propylene Glycol Monostearate, Hydroxylated Soy Lecithin, Polysorbate 80, Polyglycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids), Corn Starch, Soybean Oil, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (To Retain Freshness), Cocoa Processed With Alkali, Egg Whites, Nonfat Dry Milk, Fructose, Modified Corn Starch, Pectin, Citric Acid.

Do I even have to say that this isn’t food? It’s chemicals lightly flavored with food-like items. I just…I’m appalled that people would eat this. Some of the same people who if you showed them some hagis or a kidney pie or any other thing that was made from organ meat, but was actually FOOD, they’d be all ohgrossthat’sdisgusting.

Yoplait_Light_Boston_Cream_Pie

Ugh. 10g of sugar and no fat at all. Then they have to stick corn starch and gelatin in there to make it thick. You know, because it’s not actually yogurt. And then there’s all the artificial sweeteners. And, let me remind you again: those aren’t food. They are chemicals. Acesulfame potassium, for example, was discovered by accident when two chemists made a mistake making something else in the lab. Yum yum. Nothing like a laboratory experiment gone wrong to flavor your breakfast every morning!

I know I’ve said this before, but I feel like it isn’t doing any good. If I brought some rocks I found on the ground to the FDA and said, Here, test this and see if it’ll kill anyone so I can grind it up and add it to something that we already make perfectly fine without it, like canned green beans I would hope that someone with a brain would say, We aren’t testing this, you idiot. Rocks aren’t food.

But the “garbage’ I’m talking about isn’t limited to the kinds of things I’ve illustrated above. Even the “good” food isn’t good. After eating American meat, dairy, eggs and everything else for a month, I do not feel good. Everything affordable is highly processed and from sick, factory-farm raised animals stuffed with an unnatural grain and sugar based diet. All the vegetables taste bland and sad.

What can be done about this? I honestly don’t know. I just know that it frightens me a little that people no longer seem to know what real food tastes like. Part of the reason they don’t know is that no one’s ever tasted real food. No one knows what a real chicken or a real cow or a real egg or a real cheese is supposed to taste like. And the other part of the reason is that when the $7 lunch special sirloin comes, people are so busy snarfing down rolls with vegetable oil spread that they barely notice the taste of their meat.

3. Self-control comes into it more than I thought. When I first started doing this, on one level I was doing nothing differently. I had always eaten what I thought was good for me. It was just that I had suddenly realized that what I’d thought was good for me–whole grains, fruit, ridiculous amounts of vegetables and low-fat junk–was not. Once I learned what was good for me, I started eating that instead. So I can honestly say that Red Lobster’s cheddar biscuits are not the slightest temptation to me. They are poison. I wouldn’t eat them for money. A big piece of cake is not a treat. It’ll make me feel terrible. I’m so accustomed to not eating sugar that relatively small amounts make my heart race and I feel uncomfortable. I don’t LIKE that. I like to feel at my best all the time, so I don’t think of jelly beans with longing. I have no interest in them. I actually think if I downed an entire 20oz cola at this point it would probably kill me, and I hate the taste of artificial sweeteners in anything.

What does this have to do with anything? What it has to do with is that I have trouble relating to people who know very well that food Y makes them sick and fat, yet can’t stop finding excuses to eat it. When all this happened to me, I assumed that what happened to me would happen to anyone. Get the information and that’s all you need. Stop eating it all for a few months and you’ll break whatever addiction you have to carbs and no longer crave them.

But now I’m starting to think that while it’s true that they are addictive to a degree, there’s a bigger degree of self-control involved here than I originally thought. I keep seeing people who really have experienced enhanced health by leaving sugarflour behind for extended periods of time; who know and talk about how awful they’ll feel if they eat sugarflour; just go right ahead and do it anyway upon the slightest of possible provocations.

It’s like that old Andy Griffith episode, “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Two seemingly nice old ladies come to tell Andy and Barney about someone operating a moonshine still, and they are careful to explain: We believe a body has a right to a nip, now and then. But it should always be for an occasion, is what we believe. Of course once all the moonshiners are out of business, the ladies’ own still is the only place for the town drunks to get their liquor. The ladies justify this by saying, They sell moonshine for drinking purposes and that is wrong. We sell elixir for celebrations. The drunks keep coming up with “occasions” to satisfy the old biddies. Happy Sir Walter Raleigh Landing Day! National Potato Week! The most famous line in the show occurs when one drunk bows himself out like a Muslim and, as they wish him happy Muhammad’s birthday, one of the ladies says I had no idea there were so many Moslems in Mayberry. I could have sworn Lars Hansen was a Lutheran.

That’s how I feel sometimes in America. And it’s particularly bad after someone proceeds to explain how they “tried” this way of eating and they just aren’t ___________________. (Fill in the blank with whatever you want. Losing weight. Feeling better. Whatever.) And then they proceed to say Oh, it’s National Chocolate Chip Day you know. So I’ll need to have some chocolate chip cookies today. I’m not going to tell you it’s morally wrong to eat a cookie. But I am  going to go out on a limb here and say it this way: If you eat something and it makes you grumpy; if it makes you more likely to scream at your kids; if it leaves you exhausted and unfit to do your work; if it interferes with your sleep; if it makes you pack on pounds when you know you need to lose weight; if it makes your heart race; if it brings you another step closer to full on diabetes…have you ever considered whether it might be morally wrong for you to eat it?

Just a thought…

(Just FYI, it actually is National Chocolate Chip Day today. They were invented in 1941. But you know what? You actually don’t need a cookie. If you eat one you won’t feel good.)

Don’t get me wrong. I have my areas of life where I am as easily tempted to do what I feel like rather than what I should as anyone else. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Sunday morning glut of donuts at your church prior to the service doesn’t actually help you participate better in worship, and it probably does contribute to your frantic need to dash out and get lunch the first instant you can.

A Tale of Traveling

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Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

–Mark Twain

I must start with an apology for the very long silence. The Roommate had a crisis in her family that necessitated her absence for a while, and after that I had so much writing to do that the thought of writing more here was dismaying. Besides, I have to limit the exposure of the world to what's in my head. There are many reasons. Don't ask about them. It just sounded good to say that.

So now I am out of Asia and back in America, and I would like to report on the continued success of the Anti-Jet Lag Diet.

I think I should call my regular consumption of food by this name.

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Results

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Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. ― Clive James

I’m sorry for the long quiet. A few personal things got in the way of writing. But I would like to explain to you today the results of my personal test of the Resistant Starch Craze.

I wrote about what this starch is in this post, which also contains links to both pro- and con- arguments about the stuff. I’ll very briefly summarize here. The craze is largely in the Paleo world, and what everyone is saying is that resistant starch is starch that doesn’t get digested, thus will not spike your blood sugar, found in potatoes, rice, green plantains and bananas and a few other things, that will feed your gut biome and result in better energy, blood sugar control, sleep, digestion, weight loss, etc. I believe the gut biome will also volunteer to babysit your children if you feed them enough. I also believe doctors have known about this for ages, and call it indigestible starch.

So this has been a really hot topic, but is much disputed. One of the things that struck me was the incredible variety in responses people reported having to it. Some people were claiming that resistant starch was a miracle drug. Other people complained that it made them bloated, achy, whatever. Or that it just did nothing. So naturally I decided to try it and see what happened. I promised to keep you all apprised. Now, bear in mind that this was my experience. Yours may be quite different.

It has been six weeks now, four of them with unmodified potato starch, and the two weeks previous with small green bananas with breakfast and the occasional bowl of cool rice or a cooled potato. My overall impression is…..

…..

…..

I like to keep you waiting.

Meh

I’m not impressed.

For one thing, I almost immediately put on about 7 pounds that will not go away, most of it around my stomach. Now resistant starch advocates are very quick (and loud) to tell you that most people gain some weight at first, while their good gut bacteria start to multiply. But then if you give it two or three weeks you’ll start to lose weight. Well, six weeks in I’m still hanging on to these 7 pounds for dear life.

For another, I’ve noticed not particularly anything. My sleep has not improved. Neither has my energy or my digestion. I’ve had very little problem with gas, which apparently everyone complains about when they first start out with resistant starch. According to the Resistant Starch Faithful (RSF), that means my gut is in pretty good shape. I think. Frankly, I just don’t care that much.

Because I’ve been doing well without it. I stopped losing weight really fast after the first 100 pounds or so, but it keeps slowly dropping at it’s own pace. I don’t think resistant starch is going to be some kind of miracle to change that, and frankly it’s perfectly fine this way. I digest things fine, I sleep fine. I don’t have blood sugar issues. I eat grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, eggs, coconut milk, coconut oil, butter, hard cheeses, thick yogurt, 65+% fat cream, chicken, some bacon and once in a while some sausage. Sometimes I eat some fruit. Every other day or so. I eat some olive oil, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, homemade vanilla and I have pure peppermint oil hard candies to suck on once in a while. I make frozen yogurt and ice cream with maple syrup and coconut sugar. According to the RSF, I should be in bad shape because I only eat some vegetables occasionally and I rarely eat any with the magic starch. But I’m doing just fine.

You know what I worry about?

Spending way too much time worrying about what I eat.

Spending way too much time worry about what how I feel.

You know what happens to people who are always trying to analyze how they feel? They start imagining things.

If the way you feel is so intrusive that you notice it naturally in the course of a busy day with things to do, then do something to try and fix it. But if you sit around all day waiting to see how you’ll feel now after eating that then you’ll like feel whatever it is you’re afraid of feeling.

No one can tell you exactly what you should eat. Everyone responds differently. Clearly some people really benefit from resistant starch, so that might also be you. It’s just not me. And I’ve said it before: just because it’s true that everyone is different doesn’t mean we’re so different that you could be thriving off enormous amounts of cereal grains and vegetables with low-fat foods. Eat by the principles your ancestors knew and cherished:

1. Animal foods are strengthening and healthy.

2. Vegetables and fruits are delightful garnishes and sides. Don’t overeat them, but they probably have some good stuff in them. At least they did. There’s some worry that we’ve mostly bred the nutrition right out of our modern vegetables anyway, so soon I’ll be doing another post to update you on my 18+months of virtually vegetable-free living. I’ll give you a hint: nothing bad is happening.

3. Grains are filler for when you have to stretch the real food, or to keep you from starving.

4. Sugar is unhealthy and fattening and should be an occasional treat.

To that, add a couple modern caveats:

1. Since dairy is no longer consumed raw, make sure you’re ok with it. If you aren’t, try raw or try none.

2. The wheat you eat is totally different from the wheat your great-grandparents ate. So avoid it completely. “Grains” for you might mean rice or something. Even then, be careful if you’ve been or are a really fat person. You might be metabolically broken to the extent that you will never respond well to grains of any type.

3. Eat grass-fed or pastured whenever possible, because the cows don’t eat what their ancestors ate, either. Whatever the cow eats, YOU eat. So make sure the cow’s eating what’s good for him as much as possible. Here’s another hint: enormous quantities of corn, wheat, molasses and ground up other-cow parts isn’t good.

And with those things in mind, strike out and eat what makes you feel truly good (not temporarily buzzed) and what you can afford. Then you don’t have to obsess about what micro nutrient you might be low on. Your great-great grandfather never did, and he turned out fine.

I was going to try the starch for two more weeks, but I just don’t feel like it. I’d rather get off the 7 pounds, and I have no fear that I’ll suddenly be unable to sleep.

 

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine

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The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
― Voltaire

I was going to write about salt today. But before I could sit down and do so, I found an interesting article. Two actually. One is from the New York Times and I’ll talk about it later; the other from the LATimes. We’ll start on the West Coast since that’s closer to me.

You’ll be thrilled, excited and basically all-around adrenalized to see the headline: “FDA Approves a New Artificial Sweetener.” I know I’m beside myself.

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Aww, Nuts

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Worldly riches are like nuts; many a tooth is broke in cracking them, but never is the stomach filled with eating them.

–Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

If you putter around the low carb world for very long, you’ll see that we have a strange relationship to nuts. On the one hand, you’ve got people using pounds of nut flours every day in their cake-that-aren’t-cakes recipes. On the other hand, you’ve got spear-throwing Paleo types talking about them like they’re almost as bad for you as grain. So what’s the truth?

Well, if you think I can tell you, you’re nuts.

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More Stuff To Read

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Thus it appears to be the necessary duty, and the interest of every person living, to improve his understanding, to inform his judgment, to treasure up useful knowledge, and to acquire the skill of good reasoning, as far as his station, capacity, and circumstances furnish him with proper means for it.

–Isaac Watts

There’s always things to read. Keeping up with it all is impossible, but keeping up with some of it is good for you! An educated mind is not as easily coerced, enslaved or deceived as an uneducated one, and by “educated” I don’t mean “got a degree in business administration” or “went to plumbing school.”  I mean a mind that seeks to know what it can about everything it can. Yale sums it up well, though they are not what they once were in this respect:

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