Books: Garlic and Sapphires

June 26, 2017

Garlic and Sapphires isn’t the sort of book I’d probably have read if the library hadn’t been closed last week (due to water damage from a recent storm). But I mentioned to a friend in Toastmasters that what I really missed was access to their audiobooks, since I listen to books on CD during my daily commute (45 minutes each way). And he offered to let me use the audiobook he had just finished and hadn’t yet returned to the library.

He acknowledged that it wasn’t my sort of book (after a few years of hearing each other’s speeches you get to know a fair amount about what they like and don’t like), and I have to admit that the idea of a book written by a restaurant critic did not exactly grab my interest. But between the fact that the audiobook I had planned to listen to next was currently unavailable until the library reopened, and that one of the books in this 2017 Reading Challenge is “a book about food,” I decided to give it a try.

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Cheesecake: what is it?

February 22, 2016

I have written few block posts in recent months except about books I have written, but the article I read today about cheesecake just seemed worth sharing. Maybe it’s because I am fascinated by words and their meanings. Or maybe it’s because my family loves cheesecake.

Cheesecake, despite its name, has little in common with cake except being a dessert generally served in wedges or block shapes. But if it’s not a cake, what is it? This article from Atlas Obscura (one of my favorite sources of information about unusual places and things) explores the history and nature of cheesecake as it pursues an answer to this question.

Not in public

April 12, 2014

After doing yard work on a day like today, with the temperature finally getting into the 80’s (a week after having to scrape ice off my windshield last Saturday), a cold treat like ice cream sounds very appealing. You’d think that anywhere that the temperature regularly gets up that high, an ice cream stand would get plenty of business.

But this week I listened to a story on NPR’s All Things Considered, telling about the challenges faced by Rwanda’s first and only ice cream shop.  People whose first experience of ice cream includes an ice cream headache or tooth pain may not associate it with pleasure as we do.

But a bigger obstacle may be the traditional taboo on eating in the street. Sure, you can enjoy ice cream indoors. But most of my early memories of ice cream are outdoors – running to get a treat from the Good Humor truck, enjoying the rare treat of a soft serve ice cream cone from an ice cream stand, trying to finish an ice cream sandwich before it melted at Kingswood Day (an annual event at the high school my father had attended). It seems like ice cream is made for enjoying outdoors.

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No McCalorie counters

July 20, 2013

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people buying a meal at a fast food restaurant did not choose smaller meals based on posted calorie counts and recommended calorie intake. Well, no big surprise there. Who thought that really would make a difference?

There are certainly people who count calories. But they don’t typically eat at McDonald’s – unless they have kids begging for Happy Meals. And this study was done on adults. Chances are, an adult choosing to eat at McDonald’s is not going there for its nutritional benefits.

I do enjoy some of their salads (which I eat without the dressing, which would add lots of calories and little else – fortunately the salads taste good without dressing). But I never go there for the sake of a salad. I go there – rarely – as a special treat for my son, and the salad allows me to enjoy a tasty and relatively healthy meal while he devours McNuggets and fries.

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Books: Dearie

June 4, 2013

I suppose being part of a book club does not mean that you have to read every book the club reads. But that’s how I am – if I’m in the group, I read the books. So while I was not happy to find out that this month’s book was a biography of Julia Child, I made myself read the book anyway.

The prologue of Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child made me think I’d been wrong to think I wouldn’t enjoy the book. Reading about the preparation for her first TV appearance was very interesting. I looked forward to reading more about how she demonstrated cooking on TV, and learning a bit about the life experiences that brought her to that point.

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Culture and food cravings

September 27, 2012

I haven’t had trouble with food cravings since I started following Dr. Ann‘s “Eat Right for Life” program about a year ago. But when I saw the headline “How to Fend Off a Food Craving” in the Wall Street Journal, I was still interested enough to check it out. After all, there have been times in the past when I seemed to be free of food cravings for over a year, and then they came back.

I didn’t find any of the suggestions in the article very useful as far as how to fend off cravings. My experience is that finding healthy, filling foods to eat does the best at keeping cravings from starting to begin with. I enjoy the foods that I eat now but I don’t “crave” them, which to me implies that thinking about them dominates my thoughts.

What did interest me in the article is what it says about cravings and culture. Not only do people crave different foods in different cultures, but many cultures simply do not think in terms of “food cravings.” Their language doesn’t even include the word “craving.”

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A substitute for coffee?

July 27, 2012

On WorldMag Community today, someone asked about help for insomnia. I rather facetiously suggested having a baby, as I found that after Zach was born I was so sleep-deprived that I never had trouble falling asleep anymore. I was so prone to nodding off, I had to start drinking coffee to keep from falling asleep while I was driving.

Today I was experiencing the usual mid-afternoon slump (made worse by not having gotten a full night’s sleep the last few days – I no longer have a baby to cure my insomnia). I IM’d a co-worker who agreed that it would be great to have a comfy couch to curl up on for a nap. In lieu of that, I got a cup of coffee. She got an apple.

An apple? Since when does that combat sleepiness? She sent me a link to a blog post explaining it. Unfortunately I had no apples handy to test it out. After I finished my coffee, I had a mug of cranberry apple herb tea, but my co-worker agreed that it probably didn’t have enough apple in it to perk me up.

I admit I’m still somewhat skeptical. The idea certainly shows up in a lot of places on the internet, but then, that’s the internet for you. I read one article that claims “According to the MythBusters Web site, a healthy alternative to drinking coffee is eating a full apple every morning.”

I give a certain amount of credence to the MythBusters because they show how they go about testing each hypothesis. But I couldn’t find anything about this topic under the Food section of their Myth Results. The only thing I could find on the Mythbusters website about apples vs caffeine was in a forum where people suggest myths to be busted.

I’m inclined to agree with the person who commented “I think that if Apples were a stimulant on the order of coffee someone would have noticed a couple of centuries ago.” But I hope Adam, Jamie, and crew will consider taking on this myth.

I don’t see apples featured in the MythBusters Fall 2012 preview. But then, trying to stay awake isn’t nearly as dramatic as blowing things up. So maybe at some point I’ll get to see them tackle apples vs caffeine. If I can stay awake long enough to watch the show…