Archive for the 'Grub' Category

21
Dec
11

Why Not A Nice Ratatouille?

This was all inspired by this product:

And this question:

WHY???????

A lifetime ago, I taught fitness classes at the YMCA. During my tenure there, I cannot count the number of people who used to ask me for weight loss advice and/or personal training secrets. My answer was always the same, “Eat less and exercise more. If you burn more calories than you take in, you’ll lose weight. If you don’t, you won’t.” Out of the innumerable askers, a very numerable minority took me up on it: one. Only one person out of the throng responded to the harsh reality that 1500 calories = 1 pound, no matter how you slice it or dress it up. Everyone else went for a gimmick (“Ooh, if I do a boot camp, I can eat whatever I want!” “If I only eat protein, I can eat as much as I want!” “If I starve myself for 10 days, then I can eat whatever I want for 5!”).

It’s a human trait to try to find the path of least resistance. It seems to be an American trait, however, to so stubbornly pursue shortcuts. We seem to have been so pampered, we’re on the verge of become imbecilic brats who can no longer understand what it is to take medicine that doesn’t taste exactly like an Orange Julius.

The dressing up of the problem, then, has become big business. Want to get into a good school? It can’t be that the answer is to work hard, be as well-rounded as possible, and let the chips fall where they may; instead, you must game the system in the specific way these handy dandy books’ll tell you. Want to lose weight? Drink this magical elixir (juice) with these magical pills (speed) and watch your appetite disappear (while your blood pressure skyrockets)! Too much trouble to dress yourself? Never fear! Now you don’t have to even go through the trouble of putting on a velour track suit; now there are Pajama Jeans!

I’m not going on another anti-consumerist rampage here. My problem is actually the lack of understanding we as a country show that sometimes medicine is medicine. And that’s not always that bad. There are ways to make it palatable without losing what it is in the first place.

To wit: a French friend of mine was talking to me about the huge business that is recipes for children’s food here. She said she’d been over to a friend’s house and said (very well-meaning) friend was showing her a trick to get her kid to eat carrots: just roast them with honey on top. My friend was perplexed and asked the best question ever: “Why not a nice ratatouille?”

What an excellent question, and an excellent response to all this craziness. Instead of going overboard on gimmicks and tricks and trying so hard to never ever have to realize that something might be unpleasant, why not use a simple method to make it palatable? Want to look better when you roll out of bed? Get nicer pajamas. Better yet, stop caring so much whether or not anyone sees you in pajamas. Want to get better grades? Go to class, take notes, then do the assignments. Want to lose weight? Keep going to the gym, then skip a meal once in a while (or cut back on the ones you already eat). Why not a nice ratatouille indeed?

13
May
09

Cheerios Are Officially A Drug

What I’ve always suspected turns out to be true, according to the FDA: Cheerios is classified as a drug. Of course they are. Just look what the kids do for them:

Citing a clinical study, the product labels also claim that eating two servings a day of Cheerios helps to reduce bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, the FDA letter says.

Those claims indicate that Cheerios — said by General Mills to be the best-selling cereal in the United States — is intended to be used to lower cholesterol and prevent, lessen or treat the disease hypercholesterolemia, and to treat and prevent coronary heart disease.

“Because of these intended uses, the product is a drug,” the FDA concluded in its letter.

As a relatively new mom, I’d already figured this out. My child, born and womb-bred in Spain, has no interest in Cheerios, while her cousins go batshit nuts if they’re out. There can be only one explanation: The addiction was formed in the womb. Mom ate ’em, baby’s addicted. It works. Just ask crackheads.

21
Apr
09

Occam’s Razor, Fugue-ish Feeding, And Why I Love Dissent

Suffice to say, I have just had it with all kinds of medical practitioners. Midwives, nurses, doctors, and specialists…I’ve been awash for the last month in all their sage wisdom.

“Your daughter needs to eat more carbohydrates. She must have potatoes during every meal and desserts after. And, no, rice and beans don’t count as carbohydrates.” “Your daughter needs a tube in her ear to prevent ear infections.” “Her ears are fine.” “She has thrush, which could signal an autoimmune deficiency.” “She absolutely does not have thrush, and she’s perfectly healthy.”

This has all put me in the mindset of Dr. House, especially as I keep repeating the same medical history to each so-called “specialist.” So here’s the mystery we’re trying to solve:

My baby’s spent the first 7 months of her life in the 10-25% of weight, and the 50-75% height. When she started at daycare, she was upset. Really upset. Like, hunger strike upset. She refused all nourishment all day, and any given to her was promptly vomited back up. When I would pick her up, she would only accept breast milk, since she was looking for comfort. This went on till her first birthday, and still does to some extent (she will throw up any breakfast she eats upon entry through the door). It has, up till now, taken a month straight of visits to specialists to explain to her doctors, then, why she has dropped to the 3% in weight and 10% in height (or lower).

Also, they can’t figure out how she keeps catching ear infections.

Egads, man, when did the simplest answer to something become so goddamned elusive? I couldn’t understand this until listening yesterday to the latest “specialist” in baby care, but now I think I get it: They cannot tolerate variations on a theme.

The doctor was pounding me with rapid-fire questions for a half an hour, trying to get me to give her an example of my baby’s daily diet. Thing is, she doesn’t have a set schedule, and her tastes change daily. The doctor could not compute this, and got more and more agitated until she started barking orders at me, telling me EXACTLY what she had to eat and when. Why does my baby have to eat cereal for breakfast and not rice and beans, if she so desires? I got no answer. She did, however, go on to tell me my daughter was likely vitamin deficient, or otherwise malnourished, without a single test result to look at…just because she was confounded by a baby who ate what she wanted when she was hungry.

My husband and I have always been against excessive schedule-making when it comes to parenting, but never have I been more against it than I am now. I used to just think it was healthier for a child to be able to be flexible as far as nap times and meal times go (especially since we are public transportation junkies), but now I think it’s healthier for society in general. This is part of a larger parenting quibble we have with traditional parenting mores: “Because I said so” is a ridiculous answer to any question.

The progressive dumbing-down of societies (all this happened in Spain, but it could be anywhere) is becoming so rampant, it’s starting to terrify me, and I just see this manner of illogically foisting rules on people over whom you have authority as a highly contributive factor. Why not encourage a child (or patient) to know the reason he does what he does, or doesn’t do what he doesn’t do? Kids actually like information (hence the ubiquitous question, “Why?”), and sometimes light-hearted reasoning can really help (My nephew, who won’t eat almost anything given to him, finally ate his fish sticks when I explained that protein is what your body utilizes to grow. The terrifying prospect of being shorter than his baby cousin suddenly spurred his appetite to never-before-seen heights.)

In short, if my child’s doctor doesn’t like my daughter eating dahl for breakfast, then 😛

12
Mar
09

Can Michelle Obama Teach Americans To Eat Right? Prolly Not.


Don’t get me wrong: I hope she succeeds in her stated goal to encourage healthful eating across the United States. And I really think, if anyone can do it, she can. (Can anyone remember such a collective swoon happening in the States at a couple’s physiques as has happened with these two? Seriously, it’s like we all have a touch of the vapors when they bare the tiniest bit of skin.)

It’s just that, as I’ve said many times before, the notion that being American means overindulging in everything is soooo ingrained, it seems impossible to extricate from our collective consciousness. Her idea to highlight overindulgence in local produce seems smart, since it’s not taking away anything (just modifying it), but it’s still a tough sell. Wearing our hyper-consumption of bacon grease (and spare tires) like a badge of honor has become de rigeur. I hope it changes, since it’s not only wildly unhealthy but also seriously costly to the American taxpayer (yes, more so than smokers or drug addicts), but I lack the hope these guys have.

Part of the reason? They’re already catching flack from our fucking Congressmen about the “tiny portions” they’re being served at the White House dinners. If these guys (who, I hate to say it, are actually role models to a lot of people) can’t suck it up and set an example, I just don’t know if this idea can sell.

It’s not just about the food either. It seems to be a generally accepted notion in the U.S. to sort of expect free lunches, if you will. The legends of people pulling themselves up by the bootstraps aside, we seem to expect to just be given things without working very hard or long at them. It could be my generational lack of patience with everything (blame Sesame Street!), our proliferation of easily-available fast food, or who knows what; cutting corners to get ahead just seems to be the new American dream. Sure, we want the chiseled bodies of our new leaders, but we don’t soooo much want to put in the hours at the gym or eat like they do.

Part of this also stems from our reluctance to tell people they’re not special in some way. From high school teachers no longer being able to correct grammar, to the SAT’s being easier to ace, we seem to be unable to tell our children that everything they do and are isn’t exceptionally perfect, lest we damage their self esteem. I understand this desire. Really. I constantly tell my daughter how wonderful she is, and I loathe the notion that one day she won’t feel that way. But my greatest hope is for her to one day truly accept herself, scars and all, and I know that me constantly denying she has any faults won’t help.

So, yeah, there are a lot of reasons I think Michelle might fail. But, then again, I had many more reasons I thought I’d never see a president elected who is smart, handsome, and in love with his family, so fuck do I know, right?

10
Mar
09

NAMBLA Wants Andrew Cuomo Dead


Seriously, it’s in a newspaper and on the teevee and everything. (Well, kinda. The “newspaper” is the NY Post, a bastion of responsible journalism to be sure.)

Pedophiles Put Price on AG’s Head

Why, you ask?

a $10,000 bounty was placed on Cuomo by a suspected agent of NAMBLA. The article quotes an investigative source as saying the pedophile community is upset with Cuomo for making internet service providers take responsibility for policing child pornography.

Cuomo has also been aggressively seeking to keep convicted pedophiles behind bars through civil confinement.

This is going to sound totally OT, but give me a sec: If you know anything about Philly Cheesesteaks, you know there is a rivalry between Geno’s and Pat’s, both of whom claim to have the best in the country. A long time ago, a rumor surfaced that Pat was using horsemeat as his steaks. To rebut, Pat offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could prove it. Many, many long lines later, the source of the rumor was revealed: Pat. Barnum-esque and brilliant, this story has stayed with me as a model for how to manipulate a crowd into unwittingly doing your bidding by posing as your own adversary.

And so I officially now start the countdown to the revelation that this anonymous NAMBLA agent is actually a Cuomo associate (or Andrew himself). Tick tock, people!

06
Mar
09

Opposing The Mortgage Reform Bill Shows Why These Banks Have Failed

I don’t get economics. Let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat. Here’s something I do understand, though: Repossessing people’s houses that are worthless and won’t sell doesn’t benefit anybody. I speak from experience, having just (finally) sold a house after 6 months of trying in a neighborhood where, up till this year, houses were selling within 2 days of listing. Why such a wait? Nobody has money, and nobody can get money. Plus, we had to adjust ourselves to the notion of selling the house for maybe 80% of what it was worth just a year ago. It’s just the market right now.

The just-passed legislation on mortgage reform and anti-predatory lending practices may help these poor bastards out:

The bill, passed 234-191, largely along party lines, encourages lenders to renegotiate mortgages with troubled homeowners. If they can’t, the bill allows bankruptcy judges to modify the mortgages, a reform that bankers have argued undermines the sanctity of a contract and rewards bad behavior.

Rewarding bad behavior isn’t the issue. The issue is helping people not default on their loans, so the bank keeps getting payments on money it’s already put out there. How in the hell would taking a worthless piece of real estate no one can buy help anyone, when the other option is to continue receiving some money?

This reminds me of something I’ve found that is United-States-specific: It seems near impossible to live there and not be in debt. It’s assumed that you have a pretty substantial amount of debt once you hit a certain age, and getting out of it is ridiculously difficult. After paying off a bunch of credit cards recently, I was about to cut them up when I was reminded that doing so is bad for your credit. Instead, they sit in a drawer, where they have remained, only to charge me annual fees for the privelege. As for our recent home sale, we took a serious bath because of early payment on the home equity loan we took out. What? Why in the hell would we be penalized for giving these thirsty bankers a drink?

This is why people are in trouble. Living beyond your means is not only a tradition in the States; it has become increasingly more normal than not. Yes yes yes, I think it comes down to rampant consumerism and hyperactive marketing, but it also comes from the American lack of restraint in general. For a country so obsessed with its Christian values come election time, both avarice and gluttony seem to be the cornerstones of our way of life.

When the hell did this happen? When did it become downright unAmerican to ask people to turn their lights off when they leave the house, or to maybe not buy a car that is engineered to seat 8 people when you only have 2 kids? When did acting for the betterment of everybody in the big picture take a complete and utter backseat to acting for the betterment of you right now?

This is my problem with conservatism. While a firm advocate of individual responsibility (I firmly believe people who file frivolous lawsuits should be dragged into the streets and caned), I just don’t understand the extreme to which it’s been pushed of late. Yes, government can be ineffective and irritatingly bureaucratic, but since when have we given up on it completely? We don’t execute repeat offenders automatically, so why are we so against even the guise of federal rehabiliation?

This is a more involved topic than I meant to write about. Suffice to say: I’m glad this bill passed. I hope it teaches the banks a lesson. That is to say, I hope it teaches them the right lesson. Which is not that they have less power in D.C. now than they’ve wielded the last 15 years, but is that they should sometimes compromise for the good of the whole.  Since “the whole” included “themselves.”  Yeesh!

26
Feb
09

A Fancy Scientific Study Links Eating Less To Losing Weight!


Yes, they pay people for this.

A new study has found that overall calorie consumption matters far more than cutting any particular food group (fats, carbs) in maintaining a healthy weight. Will this turn the weight loss industry on its ear? Nope. Why? It ain’t news.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to teach a lot of fitness classes at various venues in Baton Rouge. While the clientele varied enormously from the YMCA to the high-end fancy gym, one thing remained the same: People want short cuts. And, hey, I can’t blame them. It’s human nature to, when confronted with a seemingly enormous task, try to figure out a way to get around starting a long journey.

I’ve found that, when people are looking for advice on losing weight, they want to hear two things: they can get immediate gratification, and there’s some new secret they didn’t know about before. I really can’t blame them; I myself am HUGELY impatient (for example, I would rather snack all day than prepare a meal, if given my druthers), and I wouldn’t want to be paying for advice I’d already heard. Regardless, I tended to tell my clients the truth when they asked how best they could lose weight: Eat less and exercise more. They always looked disappointed, but it always worked. Of course, the other trainers–advocating specific weight exercises, fish-only diets, or even liposuction–were more popular, but at least I knew I wasn’t bullshitting people who were earnestly looking for help.

I know I’ve harped on this before, citing personal experience and observation, but it’s nice to be able to cite a specific study.

If the money I applied for in my grant went to this no-brainer, though, I’m going to plotz.