Wednesday, February 25, 2015

facebook is sometimes worthwhile

Amidst all the fatuous tripe, excess advertisements, changing "rules" and blatant disregard of our preferences, it's REALLY EASY to hate facebook.

Then there's the bad news and bad photos.  There's clueless people who think that because we have an interest in nutrition, we'll like the latest lying vegan propaganda they just heard. 

There are distant relations that one doesn't want to cut entirely, but who NEVER post anything rational.  There are friends-of-friends whom one wants to be nice to until they dig their own graves -- should I accept the friend-request or not?

But every once in a blue moon, it "pays for itself."  Every long while I actually LIKE it (pun intended).

Today was actually a two-fer!  First, a new and brilliant quote to steal (from Paleo Comfort Foods):

A calorie isn't always a calorie, but lots of calories are still lots of calories.

Does that not just express the situation elegantly? 

Next, an unlikely source presented a Huffington article to which I can respond, "AMEN."  For my dear unmet friends in the blogosphere, I offer you this:

...Even the gentlemen should find it amusing.  :-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

drink up ...or not: just musing

One of my living-history friends linked an interesting article on facebook, Moonshine Whiskey and Alcohol Consumption in American History.  It seems to be largely an excerpt from a book called Moonshine:  A Cultural History of America's Infamous Liquor.

Like other books I often see, the observations repeated in the article show a lot of research on the subject in question and a lot of misunderstanding of confounding concepts.  As an illustration of what i'm trying to express, there's a terrific book or two about nineteenth-century clothing that I recommend to newbies in the reenacting hobby, though I always tell them, "Look at the pictures, but don't believe everything you read in the text."  The pictures provide evidence straight out of objective history, but the written accompaniment only gives you insight into the mindset, ignorance and bias of the authors.  A certain authoritative book on Victorian-era underclothes offers some incredibly stupid opinions by post-Freudian twentieth-century scholarship ... but the illustrations provide an excellent resource for what the living-historian should wear.

When it comes to the diet and health of our forebears, period resources like old cookbooks that contain recommendations for menus and special feeding of infants, children and the ill are wonderful for providing info on WHAT people were considered to need*, ... BUT...

A lot of modern writers will take the old recommendations out of context. 

Context is CENTRAL to appropriateness of dietary recommendation.  Context is why what works for the bro's isn't appropriate for ME.  Context is why telling an impoverished family they should eat grass-fed steak and organic vegetables is repugnant.

The writer who decided to try to drink the same things our colonial ancestors drank, in the same quantities, will not have the same EXPERIENCE as the originals.  There are countless differences between them and their world, and ourselves and ours, of which the experimenter is ignorant.

Physical activity is a major confounder here.  American colonials worked HARD, though they didn't work OUT.  Every little chore that we do with comparatively little effort required a lot more then.  To visit the bathroom from where i'm sitting right now, all I have to do is stand up and walk a few paces to the "little room," sit, flush, step over to the sink, turn on the faucet, and wash my hands with soap I bought when picking up my other necessities at the grocery-store.  If I lived in 1700, even in a town, I'd have to go outdoors to the privy, come back inside, and wash in a washbasin -- with water which I drew out of a well and carried in, and heated over a fire which I had to build with fuel I had to chop, with soap I had to make from fat I had to render plus lye I had to leach, ...then take the dirty wash-water to the back door and toss it broadcast so the repeated disposing thereof didn't create a sour-smelling nuisance in my backyard....

Multiply a simple activity by the extra steps it used to take to do it, and you've got some serious calorie-burning going on.  Remember that you had to walk everywhere you needed to go, or if it were really far you had to saddle or harness the horse, and take care of him and his accoutrements before and after the trip....

An interesting book contains the diary entry of a girl in 1775:

Fix'd gown for Prude, -- Mend Mother's Riding-hood, -- Spun short thread, ---Fix'd two gowns for Welsh's girls, -- Carded tow, -- Spun linen, -- Worked on Cheese-basket, -- Hatchel'd flax with Hannah, we did 51 lbs. apiece, -- Pleated and ironed, -- Read a Sermon of Doddridge's, -- Spooled a piece, -- Milked the cows, -- Spun linen, did 50 knots, -- Made a Broom of Guinea wheat straw, -- Spun thread to whiten, -- Set a Red dye, -- Had two Scholars from Mrs. Taylor's, -- I carded two pounds of whole wool and felt Nationly, -- Spun harness twine, -- Scoured the pewter

 I think we can safely assume that even if she was eating a high-carb diet, her activity level made her swap over from glucose to fat-burning before her next meal came along, and she might have been in ketosis at some point in her day.  And if you're a ketone-and-fat-burner, you don't metabolize alcohol in the same way a sugar-burner does.

I know this, because there's a huge difference in how I feel NOW after a couple of cocktails, compared with what the same amount did to me before I discovered Atkins.  I don't get the same KIND of buzz, my brain isn't impaired similarly, and I don't get hangovers.

And all that is just PART of why a 21st-century American and an 18th-century diet are incompatible....

When it comes to historic eating, a modern individual makes mistakes having to do with volume and mass, too.

Ever look at food vessels in museums, like plates and wine-glasses?  Ever compare them to what's in your kitchen cupboard?  Not in the same ballpark.  A single modern chicken breast raised on antibiotics and steroids would completely fill the antique pewter plates I own.

Old recipes for cocktails use a measurement called a "wine glass;" to make my period-correct drinks, I had to find a way to quantitatively define that but thanks to the internet it can be found.  It's two ounces.  TWO OUNCES.  Old wine and cocktail glasses are tiny things.

People just didn't slug down huge schooners of HFCS-containing highballs in the old days.  Just as a standard cup of coffee used to be five ounces, not the twenty ounces of a "venti."  People my age remember the 4-oz juice-glass, too....

It's thanks to low-cost restaurants that we consider outsize portions to be normal.  Since the cost of the actual EDIBLES they serve is minuscule compared to hardware, labor, and overhead, they led the way in the value-meal concept.  Thanks, McDonald's and Starbucks!  :-P

When someone says "cider" what do you think of?  How 'bout "beer" or "ale"?  "Wine"?  Probably not the same thing your g-g-g-g-great-grandfather drank.

I made ginger beer from a vintage recipe a couple of times.  I liked it -- it was lightly effervescent and decidedly low in alcohol.  You could probably use the same recipe a dozen times and it wouldn't have the same ethanol content twice.

Beverages of this nature used to be a purely home-made commodity.  When local civilization got to a certain point, it became possible to buy from your local ale-house for home use, but today's standardized brews and vintages -- especially centrally-produced/widely-distributed ones -- are of very recent creation.  Historically, only in the luxury trade was wine made in quantity and shipped long distances.  You can bet your booty that for the common people "wine" and "cider" started as fresh fruit juice that began mild and ended up ... vinegar.  Somewhere in the middle of that period you had an intoxicating beverage, but at each end it wasn't.  There have been various attempts to ascertain the alcohol content of "small beer" -- i.e. the stuff ordinary people drank during the day -- and the best-guess is agreed to be somewhere around one-and-a-quarter percent.

We've been consuming fermented concoctions for hundreds of millennia (the history of ardent spirits is considerably shorter), and it's been known for a very long time that it's safer to drink things with alcohol content than to drink ground-water, especially where there are lots of other people around.  This is why "Queen Elizabeth used to drink beer for breakfast" and all those other amusing factoids you hear at historic sites.

When you hear that everybody ran around tipsy (if not actually drunk) because they drank X number of glasses of wine or beer every day, there's an awful lot more to that story.  Even now, the difference between 3.2 beer and "stout" is huge.  And how many of you know that "nobody" in Europe USED to drink their white wine without diluting it, or that a glass of red was very often "mingled with sugar and hot water"?

So whereas it makes amusing reading to dredge up the menu recommendations of yesteryear (including the beverages to go with the food), trying them out for ourselves requires some savvy adjustment.  Modern tastes and modern capacities are significantly different for a variety of reasons! 
*  comparing several sources is necessary, too, lest one read recommendations which are the author's own brainchild.  We don't want to assume a nineteenth-century Pritikin is mainstream!

busy and bad

It's actually pretty easy to see how busy modern people get diet-induced ill health.  I've had a little taste of it recently.

We go through phases of doing "too much" on some days -- oh, compared to my daughter's schedule with work, amusement, and two pre-teen children, it's NOTHING.  :-)  But I always did find errand-running to be particularly wearying!  At this time of year, wearing a heavy coat and tensing up all over to walk safely on icy sidewalks, it's even worse.  My kind husband (knowing that trotting all over town is stressful for me) ends up bribing me out of the house with restaurant visits.

Errands + restaurant food = physical stress ... for a number of reasons.

Yesterday was a prime example.  We had an automotive checkup in the late morning, so we dropped Klaus off at his Audi doctor's-office and headed for lunch at a familiar restaurant where an acceptable low-carb meal can be expected.  It went downhill from there.

The "big turkey" sandwich turned out to be a bloody joke.  I've never seen a sandwich with less meat.

I ate a lot more carbs than I intended.  It was one of those occasions when i just shrug and go ahead and eat "poorly" but resolve to make up for it with fasting and exercise, because I knew I had plenty of movement scheduled for the afternoon.  But it just goes to show ya....

Doing this ONCE can be made-up-for.  Doing this constantly is health-eroding.  And busy people find themselves in similar circumstances far more often than I do.

It's all fine and dandy for health authorities to exhort people to do their own cooking, but there are times when one can't.  There are times when good intentions get derailed, too.  A person with a half-hour for lunch, who for various reasons has to get restaurant food, who is LET DOWN by the restaurant menu, just has to shrug and eat it anyway, and resolve to manage better the next time.  If this happens often, chaos ensues.

The rest of my day was pretty innocent, and I did put in a bit of mileage while out shopping, but I woke this morning with inflamed sinuses, an unhappy knee, and general water-retention.

I'll be spending today recovering ... and writing a review to lambaste that restaurant's deceit.  It's a second-location of a local eatery, at which we've had good experiences before -- perhaps the owner isn't aware that the manager is sullying his name!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

when ignorance is better than a little bit of knowledge

Not long ago, it was "conventional wisdom" to blame sweets and starchy foods for fattening people.  Then came the low-fat era and "everybody" KNEW that eating fat made people fat....

I know -- i was there.

I read Eat To Win and Beyond Diet (and similar things).  I bought the idiotic hypotheses presented there.  I know from personal experience that they don't pan out in real life.

Truly traditional "wisdom" is a little bit different.  It's based on trial-and-error behavior spanning much more time.

If one had never heard about the "scientific" hypotheses of diet during the last half of the twentieth century one would be much better off ... and WISER.

We tend to trust those who are formally educated in the western world. We have a hard time believing that what they propound is not scientifically sound ... but such can be the case.  Those holy scientists CAN be personally corrupt -- by colleagues who can make or break their careers insofar as they conform to or defy their patrons' ideological positions, and by sources of financing for their pet projects.


This is why anyone who defies the status quo deserves a little benefit-of-the-doubt, IF their hypotheses stand up to a reasonable degree of inspection.  If traditional experience AND philosophy support an idea, we should look at it closely before consigning it to the dungheap of sophistical idiocy.

Ignorance of modern science IS more rational than familiarity with pseudo-science.  The devil can quote scripture to his own advantage, and people with an axe to grind can find studies at PubMed to back themselves up, too.

Friday, February 20, 2015

demon ... OUT!!!

[evil grin]

Oh, that accusation -- one is DEMONIZING certain foods!  In this give-everybody-a-chance-to-screw-you-over-or-else-you're-being-UNFAIR culture, one can't even point out that certain foods are in fact BAD FOR US without some junk-food apologist protesting (too much)....

Face it, there's a lot of edible items that do horrible things to our bodies.  Pointing them out is not demonizing them.  The D-word is an emotion-charged appeal designed to get us to BACK OFF.

Too much lettuce in my diet makes me feel bad, as do a number of other vegetables.  Gluten-grains are problematic for me too, as well as some dairy products and megadoses of nightshades.  Ditto for certain man-made additives.  I report my observations as a heads-up to others.  Does this mean i'm DEMONIZING them?  Some people would say yes -- probably some of the same ones who go around "demonizing" red meat.  ;-)  I scoff.

Next time you read that word, take a mental step back and dispassionately consider what this appeal to your emotions is trying to achieve.  I suspect you'll find that it's an industry-promoting attempt to defend an indefensible product.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

"the problem isn't with the food"

"YOU are the one who is faulty (but it's not your fault)"

Thinking that i might get some interesting insights from the book Food Junkies, i've been using it as light reading after the long days i've been spending in the sewing room.  "Lite" reading would be a better description....

People on both ends of the patient-therapist spectrum in psychology seem to be perfect examples of the adage, "if your only tool is a hammer...."  EVERYTHING is emotionally-driven for them, except what they've heard about genetics -- but most don't seem to be familiar with the concept of EPIgenetics.  In their philosophy, there's nothing wrong with the FOOD (cuz if it doesn't poison you outright, there's nothing wrong with it):  the problem is YOU.

This book argues for the concept of Food Addiction.  Because some people can't stop eating once they start, because their problem parallels that of drug (and other kinds of) addiction, and because they can be helped by protocols designed to help alcoholics, junkies, and thrill-addicts, that covers the whole issue.  Problem solved -- get thee to an AA -- GO!

Whereas i don't disagree that there does seem to be such a thing as "FA," i believe the authors are oversimplifying.  They are quite clearly ignoring an important part of the puzzle -- some foods are basically problematic.

The authors see that sugar (and its replacements) and "flour" are the worst triggers for some people, and they note what is seen in animal and human-brain-scan studies, but that ends the physiological discussion for them.  It's all in your head!  They do pay a little lip-service to insulin and leptin ... it's like they want to say, "see, we're up-to-date on real Science!" ... but don't really have a strong handle on it cuz EMOTIONS.

If the first step toward healing is confessing there's a problem, i'm becoming convinced that there will never be a cure for "over-eating" TILL "EXPERTS" CONFESS THAT CERTAIN FOODSTUFFS ARE THE CENTRAL ISSUE.

"Though abstaining from foods is a contentious subject in the scientific literature, there is no question that it will cause a level of discomfort that often drives addicts back to eating."  Yeah, abstaining from things that damage your body is SO WRONG....  :-P  This is not the only place where extrapolating from people with massive psychological problems to more normal individuals appears in this book.  Bearing in mind that some of their patients are inches away from DEATH, most people struggling to stay on their diets do not have to be treated with the same caution.  NOBODY halfway sane ever died from giving up sugar.

There is no virtue in eating junk-food -- ZERO -- and only a practitioner of psychology could make such an argument as:  "No food should be seen as 'good,' 'bad,' or 'dangerous.'  Healthy foods, junk foods, desserts, snacks all are integrated into the plan so as not to encourage a pathological focus on food."  This is something an anorexic in dire straits needs to work with ... but not Suzy Homemaker who gained twenty pounds with her last pregnancy and is having trouble taking it off.

"Being able to eat everything" may be a desired goal for PEOPLE WHO WANT TO EAT EVERYTHING, but it's not a rational goal for the individual who merely wants to be lean and healthy.  There's nothing laudable about EATING STUFF -- what are they thinking?  Most of us are not living in a world in which we'll die if we can't digest starches optimally.

For people who are prone to binge, or to starve themselves, or to practice bulimia, this book could be a godsend, but for those who merely need to tweak their diets it's superfluous.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

sackcloth and ashes

Mardi Gras will be over by the time i publish this -- you'd better have finished up all the goodies that might spoil over the next six weeks, cuz it's LENT!  ;-)

I've long suspected that back when people were eating mostly what they (or nearby farmers) grew for themselves, by mid-February the cupboard was getting pretty bare.  The green stuff was LONG gone, the cow was dry, and the chickens stopped laying some time before;  the ham, bacon and salt beef probably getting scarce, the apples, turnips, carrots, etc were doubtless pretty dry and shriveled -- you were lucky if you still had some sauerkraut, i imagine.  What a perfect time for the church fathers to choose for a group fast:  you're making a virtue of necessity!

Ah, fasting!  I've heard it said that it was the secret behind the Mediterranean dietary practices which Ancel Keys thought to be so miraculous.  I see it in myself -- any time i get stuck in a social setting in which i have to primarily eat carbs or go hungry for an extended period (i.e., when i'm obliged to accept the hospitality of clueless relatives for a whole day), the horrible bloat and malaise i suffer goes away much more quickly if i follow it up with 24 hours of nothing but coffee.

Intentional fasting has been a part of religious traditions since before the Pharoahs.  Unintentional fasting has a much more lengthy history.  Until comparatively-recent transportation came on the scene, our forebears progressively tightened their belts as the winter months passed because the choices were so limited.  They dreamt of the first dandelions of spring because those were the earliest greens available.  My mother tells stories from her childhood, how my grandmother looked forward to them, and also how she used to park the car by the side of the country road because she knew where watercress was to be found (even though it required trespassing).

My old Picayune Creole Cook Book lists over two dozen concoctions in a dedicated chapter entitled Lenten Soups/Potages Maigres, and there are quite a few more appropriate recipes in the gumbo chapter, the section discussing fresh local fish, TWO chapters on shellfish (including frogs and green turtles), and the one which speaks of salted and canned fish (things not caught in local waters, like salmon, cod, mackerel, etc).

As you see, in places like the American gulf coast, the southwest, and in the Old World warm spots like around the Mediterranean, fast-days weren't austere by necessity, but by "choice."  It's amusing to me that the American branch of the Roman Catholic church's move from meatless meals ALL THROUGH Lent (plus most Fridays throughout the year), to only going meatless on Ash Wednesday and Lenten-season Fridays, came about when good fresh foods from all over the world became widely available....  [evil grin]

The history of fasting for spiritual as well as for therapeutic reasons is long, complicated, and interesting.  We're just beginning to learn the details of HOW therapeutic fasting actually works in the body, but it has been understood for quite awhile that it IS so -- understanding which obviously came from observation and trial-and-error.

I suspect we ALL can benefit from some kind of fasting, whether it be days-long, or just the elimination of between-meal indulgence.  And if you find that the religious-world's support and encouragement helps, this MIGHT be a very good time to go ahead and eliminate items from your diet that you know you shouldn't be consuming anyway -- analogous to using AA to help a drunkard give up booze.  Six weeks is an excellent amount of time to find out that you really do feel better without your personal "forbidden fruit."

Just try to abstain from your local church's Friday Fish Fry special!  ;-)  Here in historically-Catholic St. Louis, just like the New Orleans of that creole cookbook, there are posters advertising the FishFries EVERYWHERE -- more than once every year they're an inspiration to me to fry fish at home ... in paleo-approved batters, crumbs, and fats of course.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

happy Mardi Gras! :-D

Counter-balancing (is that a redundancy?) the sweet cocktail i created for Valentines' Day, i offer a savory one now.  We never paid any attention to MG until we lived in N'Orleans ... but now we're HOOKED!  And that expression turns into a pun, since one of the most memorable aspects of the French Quarter scene is the seafood!  I've always been a lover of fish and crustaceans, but now my affection approaches Fatal Attraction....  :-)  SO...

If It's Okay Bayou

3 oz. of a sturdy gin (Damrak or Bulldog is perfect, but Beefeater's is FINE ... don't use something delicate like G-Vine or Magellan!  you want to taste HERBS not flowers)
3 oz. tomato juice
1 oz. clam juice
2 dashes celery bitters
12 or more drops Holy Trinity bitters*
a sprinkle of Tony Cachere's cajun seasoning
1 anchovy filet

Shake to a Zydeco beat with plenty of ice, strain into cocktail glasses and garnish with a spiced boiled shrimp.


Of course, if you're a traditionalist you can always revert to the HURRICANE, one of the cocktails most associated with the Vieux Carre ... and which coincidentally was the first recipe i posted here.  ;-)
*  honestly, one of the reasons i designed this cocktail this way is because i had these bitters and didn't know what to do with them! if you don't have THEM or Tony C's seasoning, you may improvise with some Tabasco and any other creole/cajun spices.

Monday, February 16, 2015

the case against almond-meal baking

I mentioned yesterday that after my "paleo-approved" breakfast, i felt mild but classic symptoms of food-intolerance.  It happened to have been a favorite pseudo-carb treat, which i indulge in maybe once every two or three months, lemon-poppyseed muffins based on -- you guessed it -- almond meal and eggs.

There's a reason why in time-honored murder mysteries the detective sniffed the breath of the acute-poisoning victim -- anything that kills them that fast (in fiction, at least) has got to be cyanide!  The criminologist always notes that bitter-almond smell....

There's also a reason why the list of goitrogens includes things like cassava/yucca and stone-fruits, too.  All of them contain varying amounts of cyanide compounds.  These chemicals interfere directly with the thyroid's ability to create its crucially-important hormone.

IF a low-carb diet has a negative impact on the thyroid (which i'm not conceding), i postulate that it has more to do with consuming goitrogenic plant-sourced toxins than it has with too-low carbohydrate content.  (i've discussed that latter concept many times before, and pronounce it a bloody LIE spread by people too ignorant to understand the difference between physiologically-lowered hormone output and the pathological kind.)

Connect the dots:  as has been observed before, it's easier to "over-eat" ground-up nuts than whole ones;  it's scary-easy to overeat baked goods, even low-carb ones;  the goitrogenic property of almonds is minuscule in serving-size portions of whole nuts;  the goitrogenic property of almonds is probably shockingly high in almond flour, considering that ALL its digestible constituents are more available, and one is probably consuming more than one perceives.

I have long believed that too many treats are a mistake (even if they're low-carb ones), for people trying to lose weight -- it's just too easy to overdo it.  The problematic nature of milled almonds is just another nail in the paleo-baked-goods coffin, in my opinion.

I'll be ordering and using more hazelnut meal, myself.  Although less immediately-available than almond flour (which most grocery-stores seem to be stocking these days), it has a longish history of use in European cuisine, and i have reason to believe it's more "wholesome" for me.  I don't make a LOT of low-carb treats, but i DO uphold their value in this dessert- and snack-happy culture of ours.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

sssh -- listen!

It's something that most people rarely do, these days.  Before the "wireless" (ie, RADIO to all those without peculiar interest in history), any lone person doing a quiet task had minimal auditory distractions:  city noises, fire crackling, water cascading, children vocalizing, animals ... doing what they do, other people about their business.  Today, i know a lot of people who leave their televisions on all the time they're at home even when they're not paying attention to them.  Many people out for a walk or jog are insulated from the real world by a pair of headphones.  Unless an acute disruption happens which breaks through their noise-of-choice, they're not likely to notice a more subtle sound.

The same goes for "listening" to the body.  People eat meals in company with others, be it family, fellow restaurant patrons, friends, etc;  they chow down then get back to work, usually not paying attention to the quiet little responses of their bodies, to what they just ingested.  If there's an "acute disruption" in the response of their digestive systems they'll notice, but might not with the more infinitessimal feedback.

I suspect that this is why so many people never notice that wheat or dairy or additives have a deleterious effect on them, until suddenly they experience reflux or ... something worse.

It would probably save a lot of expense and suffering if everyone who has ANY kind of health issue would keep a food diary, and consult it whenever an upset occurs.  By noting coincidental malaise with the ingestion of certain foods (frequently consumed a day or two before), more people would get a clue that their dietary choices are problematic.  You wouldn't see the constant denial that culturally-approved ingredients have a dark side.

In many cases, eating ANY of certain foods is the "eating too much" that self-appointed experts warn us against.  Any wheat is too much for a celiac.  Any booze is too much for an alcoholic.

After eating a perfectly-innocent paleo-approved breakfast this morning, i started feeling cold and edgy.  SOMETHING in that breakfast didn't sit right.  If i had been running around instead of doing my morning reading i would never have noticed.

There's nothing making more than a hum in this room, though there's a low murmur of a video on down the hall (J has been enjoying watching vintage television on Netflix recently).  A winter Sunday in my neighborhood is usually pretty quiet too, though the muffled swish of tires rolling down our street comes quite regularly.  My keyboard gives out only tiny clicks as i type.  If my stomach gurgles or my joints pop, i hear it.

We have to pay close attention if we want to know our bodies' true responses to what we consume.  That old chestnut, "listening to your body" is ONLY valid if we interpret its feedback correctly.  We know it can be fooled by the addictive properties of certain foodstuffs, but it can also hint to us that our intake of important minerals is too low.

It can tell us that what we're eating is demanding too much response from organ systems -- too much carb for a struggling thyroid, for instance, or too much fructose-and-omega-six for the liver.  It can tell us that leftover meat is taxing our ability to cope with histamines/tyramines.  We can discover that normal quantities of healthyfruitsandvegetables for others are altogether excessive for us.

BUT YOU HAVE TO LISTEN.  You won't notice that eating wheat-products gives you gas (as it does for my daughter) unless you have awareness that this doesn't happen when you eat rice.  If you're getting a hit of dopamine from playing that video game, you won't perceive that ingesting certain foods results in depressive symptoms.  If you're vicariously concerned for your favorite character in your favorite thriller, you won't notice that the "flutter" in your gut actually came from the four ounces of cheese you just ate.

Self-awareness is how we perceive that some foods make us feel good and others make us feel lousy. In the day before numbers-driven medicine, symptoms were how doctors knew there was a problem! But if you don't notice the subtler symptoms, you won't realize you really have a problem till that problem is acute -- at which time it COULD be too late.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

happy ... ?

I'm extremely ambivalent about Valentines' Day.  On the one hand, for people in a satisfying, loving relationship, it's nice to have an externally-encouraged occasion to make a point of appreciating their state as well as their significant other.  To court meditation upon their good fortune, happiness, and gratitude toward their beloved is a lovely thing!

The pressure to offer an appropriate gift is not quite so pretty.*

Nor is the thought of the unmated who long for but are unable to find a lover, or worse yet the ones who recently lost their loved ones, or who were DUMPED by someone who didn't love them back....

I feel profound compassion for those groups.  Valentines' Day rubs their noses in their grief and misery.

A word of advice from an old broad who has observed the world**:  if you have a good, kind, committed lover, appreciate him/her!  They may not be perfect, but they're a blessing!  If you don't ... don't waste your time searching for one!  You're wasting precious time chasing rainbows.  Develop your talents, pursue something you're passionate about, DO stuff you love.  I once read that "good things happen quickly" and my observations have confirmed it.  Men (and probably women too, to an extent) may dawdle along in a superficial relationship for decades, but when "the right one" comes along, suddenly the anti-marriage individuals can't wait to marry.  ... Re-watch the movie "French Kiss."

In consideration of all my attitudes about this day, i offer a personally-designed cocktail for your delectation.  In order to keep carbs as low as possible, i left out certain flavor-augmenting embellishments that i might otherwise have included, but i'm satisfied with the result.  My husband and i sacrificed our diets testing several incarnations of the recipe, to make sure this was worth your consideration!  ;-)


2 oz. kirschwasser (dry -- not a sweet liqueur but simple cherry brandy)
1 oz. heavy cream
2 drops almond extract
2 drops liquid sucralose (or 1 packet of splenda)
2 dashes chocolate bitters
1 drop red coloring (if desired)

Shake for 30 seconds with plenty of ice, then strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry or a shaving of dark chocolate.


*  i'm reminded of a friend's dilemma when i lived in TX -- his girlfriend had just lost her mother, and he wanted to make a gesture of support.  He was concerned about sending the right message:  enough to be impressive but not to "say too much."  :-)  I suggested a pendant necklace with her birthstone (in this case, a sapphire).  ...He ultimately lost her through his ambivalence.

**  i like to think that i'm in training to become a "Wise Woman."  ;-)

Monday, February 9, 2015

odds and ends, being back home

Leaving the farm of my friends G and S on Saturday morning, I paused to get a photo of the "coos"....

I'm happy to report that G's pancreatic cancer seems to be responding to his treatment!  He was VERY thin, but had good color and reasonable energy and appetite, considering everything!  :-)

If you've never seen Highland cattle, they're very compact and stocky, with long hair and wicked horns.  I understand that they're reputed to be "lower fat," but perhaps that's just the grass-fed version ... so i'll forgive them!  Personally, I find them so attractive, i'd be inclined to forgive them being low-fat even on a diet of grain -- one can always serve them with BĂ©arnaise sauce! 


"...A high-carb, high-fat diet is really tough to pull off without incurring health problems, like hyperlipidemia or overweight. High-carb, high-to-moderate fat is just about the worst kind of macronutrient ratio for heart health; it’s no accident that the standard American diet is high-(refined) carb, high-to-moderate (refined) fat. It’s notorious for elevating LDL particles, especially the small, dense ones. Professional athletes, high-performance Cross-Fitters, people training hard nearly every day of the week can get away with pairing large amounts of fat and carbs together, but most people cannot."

So says Mark Sisson ... effectively BLOWING OUT OF THE WATER the concept that a high-carb diet is just ducky for EVVVVERYBODY, as a lot of ignorant young things seem to think!  It's about bloody time, too.

I hurried back home from Texas in order to attend a seminar we booked some time ago -- a mixology class at a local restaurant/bar.  Louise (one of Tess's living-history alter-egos) is a very happy camper, having learned some tricks of the bartending trade, and even some theory when it comes to creating cocktails out of the imagination! 

We learned about some stellar brands of spirits, too;  we made a trip to one of the best shops in town to pick up a few of them -- good thing alcohol doesn't spoil, cuz it'll be a while before we could possibly use them up!

Be on the lookout -- definitely going to have to provide ORIGINAL recipes for low-carb cocktails in honor of Valentines' Day and Mardi Gras....

I'm happy to say, I've managed to "infect" my daughter with the reenacting bug!  :-D  After we returned from "Cowboy Town" she took a day off, and we visited a fabric store where we picked out some materials to make her two more dresses of her own (she's close enough to my size to be able to wear my things).  ...Oh, and I picked out a fabric to make myself something too -- people who sew can become terrible acquirers and hoarders of yardage!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

what do you say?

One of my facebook friends whom i've never actually met is the caretaker of a wife with Alzheimer's dementia.  I can see that being part of an online family gives him an opportunity to express his sense of isolation, frustration, sorrow, shame (because he's using food stamps and hates it) ... and many more feelings than i can describe.  He has pointed out that well-meaning people have written to him suggesting all sorts of theoretically-helpful treatments (like coconut oil), and that such suggestions can be very provoking (because a lot of people won't lay off after a "thanks but no thanks" message).

But how can one respond appropriately, besides saying "i'm so sorry, and wish you the best"?

Dementia is a sad and horrible malady.  But it's a modern-world problem, and the direct result of the bad dietary advice of the last 30 years.  Dr. Wm. Wong wrote once that when he was in medical school they told him, "here's a disease you need to know about, but chances are you'll never see a case because it's so rare."  RARE....  Today we're seeing an epidemic of it, and not in the extremely old as it used to be.

Pancreatic cancers are rife, too!  One of my dearest friends died of it in '13, and another friend (whom i'll coincidentally be visiting tomorrow) is fighting it as we speak.  Yet another is dealing with a rare form of liver cancer.  What should we SAY?

"I'm so sorry, and wish you the best!"

I HAVE to believe in karma, and that McGovern and Keys will roast in hell for all eternity for their ego-driven campaigns to get us all to eat the way they wanted us to.  :-P  How many people suffered and died needlessly because of them, and because of the USDA's drive to make lots of money for their buddies in Big Ag?

My friend who died in '13 KNEW he should cut back on the sugar because of the eye problems he was experiencing.  I restrained myself, but about three times in total i mentioned that some of his issues were glucose-related, and once he replied (to my very last comment), "i have to eat what i like to eat."

Is that what's most important to YOU?  Is "eating what you like" more important than debilitating pain and an early death?  Leaving your loved ones bereft?  Never seeing your grandchildren grow up?  Is it more important to have that bread/pasta/doughnut/candy bar than to spend another 20 years with your nearest and dearest, doing things you love to do?

What should i say to my friend tomorrow, besides expressing my affection and admiration, and regret that he's going through all this turmoil and discomfort?  Last weekend at our living-history event, some of his precious possessions were sold to help raise money to deal with his medical bills.  His horses and tack, his guitars, his reenacting equipment, his CLOTHING....

When i'm thinking to myself how avoidable their suffering has been, i'll be restraining my desire to tell my friends that a change in their dietary habits COULD help them fight their modern illnesses.  ...It's hard.

low-carb paleo goodies

In the LC and paleo communities, to my frustration, the dessert, treat, and imitation-junk-food recipes outnumber the appealing main-dishes.  I believe such recipes are highly valuable to people who are transitioning from the SAD to a better diet, but when one is well-established they're only useful for special occasions.  So many of our little circle here are tough enough to go through the entire winter holiday season -- or conversely the barbecue season -- without breaking stride, ... but i confess to being a sucker for holiday treats.  :-)  With that in mind, i have an offering....

Coeur a la Creme is a traditional dessert which absolutely cries out to be made at this time of year for low-carbers and their beloveds.  I understand that it was originally made in shaped BASKETS, but nowadays one can find little ceramic molds with holes in them to allow excess moisture to drain away.  Since dollar-stores will be CRAMMED with heart-shaped vessels of every sort, it shouldn't be too difficult to find some kind of mold to use, and not have to spring for the official sort ... since, after all, you need to line whatever container you use with cheesecloth anyhow!

Coeur a la Creme
  • 8-oz package cream cheese 
  •  1 c. creme fraiche or sour cream 
  •  6 T. powdered erithritol, divided 
  •  1 t. lemon juice 
  •  1/2 t. vanilla extract 
  •  pinch of salt 
  •  handful of strawberries or raspberries
Moisten cheesecloth, and line your mold(s) with it.  Beat together the cream cheese, cultured cream, 4 T. of erithritol, lemon juice, vanilla and salt until smooth, and then pack into the mold(s).  Place it/them in a pan that will catch the moisture that drains away, cover, and refrigerate at least four hours to overnight.  Before serving, toss whole or sliced berries with the remaining 2 T. of powdered erithritol, and place them decoratively on your unmolded coeur a la creme.

In consideration for those who are triggered by food porn, i'll refrain from posting a photo of this charming and delicious dish, but you can easily google a picture if you've never seen one in the flesh.  :-)  Bon appetite!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

dichotomies and spectra

There's been a LOT of discussion about anti-vaxers recently....  As with so many problematic issues, we're called upon to commit to a SIDE -- either you're with us or against us, and you must choose!

What do fundamentalist Christians and scientists have in common?  If you're not in lockstep with them, or on your knees at THEIR altar, you're the enemy.  There's no grey area:  you're either a vaxer or an anti-vaxer.

They don't want to hear that they're doing a bad job of living up to their own ideals.  The more true it is, the more they LALALA-I-CAN'T-HEAR-YOU-LALALA!

Many pharmaceutical products, including immunizing ones, are fabulously helpful, but only if they're used RIGHT -- in a timely fashion on the appropriate patient.  A shitload of doctors use them sloppily (e.g., statins, antibiotics and psych-meds), encouraged by a pharmaceutical industry which is more interested in profit than health-promotion.  If there's only ONE opportunity to vaccinate children, as in the old medical-missionary style, perhaps there's an excuse to go ahead and give them a year's worth of doses in one day.  Nowadays, when parents run their children to the pediatrician's office every time they sneeze, following that pattern is just plain idiotic.

Not all babies and children seem to need ALL the prophylactic shots being given them (hepB, for example).  And considering what kinds of toxic ingredients are IN some of those preparations, broadcasting them out as the medical profession does is analogous to feeding antibiotics to animals to make them grow fatter, faster.  The law of unintended consequences WILL bite you in the ass if at all possible.

A SPECTRUM is a wonderful thing.  So is a bell-curve.  You find people falling in a wide swath of normalcy, with pathological extremes -- same goes for most kinds of human activity.

Excepting pregnancy, of course -- a simple positive or negative tends to apply there.  ;-)