Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

The Lean Green Bean 

It's that time again, although this time I feel a little bereft. 

This month I was matched up with Tamara. After some e-mail exchanges, she let me know she was sending me homemade hot sauce made from her own ghost chilis. Wahoolazooma! 

Sadly, the box did not make it.  My mouth was waiting to be blistered. Sigh.

But you know, it's the chance we take with this. I'm still glad to be part of the exchange. 

I sent my package to Sara in Indianapolis.  She's quite the foodie and gave me some excellent eating tips for the area when headed out there for a conference. I actually spaced out through most of it, as she pointed out the hotel in which I was staying served marinated bacon on a stick. Oh, I'm there!

You can see what I sent her by checking out her site, Solid Gold Eats.(Bacon is indeed mentioned).

And if you're interested in joining Foodie Pen Pals, check out Lindsay's site for more details.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

So...Cavemen Had Ovens?

As I've said many times here, I don't really follow a real "name brand" diet. I've tried many of them in the past and they all ended up not quite doing the job when it came to weight maintenance. Nowadays, when people ask what SPECIFIC diet I follow, all I can really say besides "healthy food in decent portions" is "make sure you choose a style of eating that you can continue in the long run." Because as trite as it sounds, "dieting" usually means eating a certain way until a goal is achieved, and this (meaning Streamlined Ska Librarian life) is an ongoing way of eating.

But that doesn't stop people from trying to push another agenda on me. A lot of them have told me that I should follow the Paleo Diet, as if somehow maintaining a 75 lb weight loss and building muscle is just not doing it right. I think they just want more affirmation on their own plans, but all I can really offer is support to be healthy.

I never really gave much though the the Paleo Diet, but on the surface it seems pretty much a low-carb kind of thing. I tried low-carb'ing several years ago. Weight came off, but it's not a sustainable way of eating. I LIKE whole grains!

There's nothing wring with the basic concept of trying to eat less processed, more whole foods; increasing the fruit and vegetables, getting rid of the sugar and excess salt. It's all fine. But the complete removal of certain foods that aren't processed and sugar/salt/fat laden is not going to be feasible in the long run.

I had to see if my secret BFFs at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had anything to say about the issue and sure enough, they did. And they also were concerned about sustaining the diet, not the mention the lack of fiber intake.

And then some scholarly research has been done through the years.A fairly recent report shows that a Paleo Diet can lower cholesterol, insulin levels and blood pressure, although the researchers do caution that it was a small sample group that were not at risk for any of these issues before.

Older articles, and some go way back, address actual paleolithic era diets and results based on the remains of said folk. Some issues: early osteoarthritis and osteoporosis...not to mention the average life span being several decades shorter.

So, let's just say instead of claiming that we're reclaiming the "more natural" way of the past, we're just trying to be more mindful about our food intake? Oh, right, that sounds unsexy.

I would say the Paleo Diet could be feasible, but of course, faux food has to brought into the equation. And again...if it's such a good choice of eating style, why do you have to pretend you're eating something else?

The other day a friend posted a link on his Facebook page to a recipe for "Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies."
I started laughing as I thought this might be a joke. But a simple online search shows there are dozens and dozens of recipes for this item.

Most of these recipes are the same: almond flour, some form of coconut (oil or flour), baking soda, vanilla extract, a sweetener (often sugar) and chocolate chips. I'm already calling shenanigans on the chips, which are soooo processed as to be completely unlike anything found during cavemen time.

But some of the recipes really go off the rails:
sugar (isn't that the ultimate no-no on this diet?)
wheat flour (again...the whole no grains thing?)
ghee (oh, come on! clarified butter?)


*ahem* sorry. This is why these fad diets irk me. Creating a cookie is not Paleo. Gluten-Free? Perhaps. Healthier than a store brand? Probably so.  But a return to a natural pre-historic suppsoed way of eating? Nope.

When you claim something is part of a diet or creating more faux foods, do you not wonder why that diet may not be successful? I try to stay away from trigger foods and situations where I'll eat tons of bad for me food. I really try not to eat cake and sugar bombs. But I don't sacrifice opportunities to try things, even modern things.

So here was yesterday's breakfast:
1/4 chickpea flour
1/4 cup corn meal
1 egg white (thereabouts)
mustard greens
(nuked together and then topped with)
some lime slasa
asiago cheese
and some prunes for a sweet thing

You caveman may start drooling now.


Campbell, Harry. “THE EVOLUTION OF MAN’S DIET.” The Lancet 164, no. 4235 (October 29, 1904): 1234–1237. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(01)34454-9.

Frassetto, L. A., M. Schloetter, M. Mietus-Synder, R. C. Morris, and A. Sebastian. “Metabolic and Physiologic Improvements from Consuming a Paleolithic, Hunter-gatherer Type Diet.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 63, no. 8 (February 11, 2009): 947–955. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2009.4.

“Like the Paleo Diet? Try This Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.” Health News / Tips & Trends / Celebrity Health. Accessed April 24, 2013. http://news.health.com/2013/04/22/paleo-chocolate-chip-cookies/.

“Paleo Diet -- What You Need to Know -- US News Best Diets.” Accessed April 25, 2013. http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/paleo-diet.

Schwarcz, Henry P. “Some Theoretical Aspects of Isotope Paleodiet Studies.” Journal of Archaeological Science 18, no. 3 (May 1991): 261–275. doi:10.1016/0305-4403(91)90065-W.

“Should We Eat Like Our Caveman Ancestors? from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.” Accessed April 25, 2013. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442471551.

Verhaegen, M., and P.-F. Puech. “Hominid Lifestyle and Diet Reconsidered : Paleo-environmental and Comparative Data.” Human Evolution 15, no. 3–4: 175–186. Accessed April 25, 2013.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Back to Basics

Luther Halsey Gulick with Physical Department students, 1890 
Courtesy of Springfield College, Babson Library, Archives and Special Collections.
(via the Digital Public Library of America. If you haven't yet checked out this great new site, do so now and them come back...I'll be here.)

Such strapping youths, and they look like they appreciate a variety of workouts. (I'm not actually sure what some of those items are). I bet there was no talk of "muscle confusion" back then.

And with this fine weather finally appearing, it's time once again to mix up the workout. My last measurements with the trainer showed an increase in chest, shoulders, arms and legs. However, the diet has not been overly great. I can see a little more emotional binge stuff going on. So even though I've probably put on a few pounds from being bigger, muscle-wise, I'm pretty sure most of it is just plain old bad food residue.

And that can't happen. Keeping it off is still a full time job and studies show that successful maintenance requires planning and continuing work.

But with better weather comes a better dedication to all this. My workouts have been very oriented towards weight training and cardio was taking a back seat, usually because the weight training was taking over an hour to complete. The evening sessions with the trainer meant mornings were for cardio, but truthfully, I've been finding gym cardio a drag. And my weight training certainly was making me sweat!

But now with early sunrises comes a return to lots of outside running. So this month's schedule:

Monday: (morning) 5K run, (Evening) Chest w/trainer
Tuesday: Back
Wednesday: Shoulders
Thursday: (Morning) 5K run, (Evening) Arms w/trainer
Friday: Legs (or 8K run)
Saturday: 8-12K run
Sunday: Pilates (and 8-10K run)

And, of course, it's not just adding back more cardio. It's time to once again really look at what I'm eating. Cut back on some of the bad stuff. Be more aware about caloric intake. And just be more aware of why and when I'm eating.

Lindsay, the force behind Foodie Pen Pals, recently blogged about her falling away from the "vegetarian/vegan" label of eating she's been doing. Her post, My Diet Doesn't Need a Label, really hits the mark. Why keyhole yourself to a particular diet if it means you're "breaking the rules" when you might go off "topic", or people might judge you for it? 

Now, some of my friends have commented that my constant referencing of RD blogs must involve some kind of  self-worth issue, as they believe dietitian blogs are WAY too positive and peppy for someone of my *ahem" demeanor. 

(I think I am peppy. Snarky, yes, But peppy in my own way)

And, while RD blogs probably are more about promoting healthiness than other topics (which is pretty peppy), it doesn't mean one of these folks doesn't hit the nail on the head in their posts.

And Lindsay probably gives the most succinct answer I can could think of for anyone wishing to know what the "perfect diet is":

"I’ll focus on making healthy choices, eating a well-balanced diet, choosing correct portions sizes and enjoying my food!"


"I think you should do what works for YOU and not worry about everyone else."

So it is back to basics. Effective peppy basics. 
See? Here's dinner:
Mung beans and kale with kielbasa, apricots, cranberries and curry leaves

A non-genre, non-label, non-diet but damn fine dinner.

Works for me!



Kayman, S., Bruvold, W., & Stern, J. S. (1990). Maintenance and relapse after weight loss in women: behavioral aspects. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 52(5), 800–807.

McGuire, M. T., Wing, R. R., Klem, M. L., & Hillf, J. O. (1999). Behavioral Strategies of Individuals Who Have Maintained Long-Term Weight Losses. Obesity Research, 7(4), 334–341. doi:10.1002/j.1550-8528.1999.tb00416.x

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Food memories, fat presents, DIY accountability

I have to say the conference was good, the library presentations were pretty swell and, it's not just the punk-boy geek fan in me, but Henry Rollins gave the best keynote at a library conference I have ever seen and I've been going to these for over 20 years.

ACRL 2013 Poster

Al Gore came close some years back, but Rollins was engaging, timely, non-pandering and gave an obviously prepared piece in an almost improvisatory style.It made me feel good about myself, my professional choices and my theories on information. I do hope someone posts a video or a transcript of his talk. His tales of going to the National Archives with Ian MacKaye are particularly memorable.

(Sorry, dietitians, I think we won this round!)

But now I'm back home and trying to not get totally knocked out, health-wise, from the hermetically sealed hotel room, convention center and airport settings, along with a drop in temperature from 75 to 32 in one day. And a set of days where I ate as unhealthy as in my Retro Ska Librarian days. Not for lack of trying to be healthy, but DANG! Is everything cooked like this in Indiana's downtown area? Even my order of "plain green beans" came out salted and buttered and doused in some smoky tangy creamy sauce. My side salads were swimming in stuff. Now, granted, I was in the tourist area and didn't always have time to do some hard traveling for top-notch cuisine, but it was a very greasy kind of week. A tasty week (they did a lovely duck and cherry sandwich at one place and the chilis and daikon in a porkburger were spot on) but not so healthy.

However, even as I'm sitting here at home munching on kale and tuna after a huge core workout, some of those conference meals brought back memories. It was the kind of food I'd first set out to make for my friends and I. Things I would find in cookbooks and then expand upon. Homey, hearty and full of love and sharing, if not health.

And, by coincidence those thoughts came back as I just picked up the latest graphic novel by Lucy Knisley, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen. I was only familiar with one of her earlier works, French Milk, which, to be very honest, didn't really connect for me. But now looking at her website and reading this, I'm really enjoying her work.

Relish is an autobiographical tale of growing up with her chef/foodservice mom and her foodie dad. It's filled with vignettes and recipes. But there are some interesting  pieces that really stood out for me.

One was her connection to eating junk food, even though her parents were gourmet cooks. The illicit foreignness of these foods when your parents eat like gourmets, the fact that they just taste good, and the point that gourmet foods aren't entirely healthy. (p. 40-41)

Another is a tale of her friend who tries to learn how to cook by just searching the internet and ends up with very sad results such as "lemonade chicken" (p. 150-151).

Both of these remind me of how universal my mixed feelings of food and enjoyment and myself really are. Some of my best memories revolve around dinner parties or food events. Some of my less positive emotional ones also revolve around those.

And this makes me realize that I can't always use that as a crutch for what happened to me and my physique. Just as I dismiss folks who say that it somehow must have been easier for me to lose weight, I can't just say it was easier for me to gain it because of my upbringing or childhood menu. 

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that even folks on medication for clinical depression or mental illness where weight gain is a supposed side effect, actually lost weight when adding more exercise to their life. This is especially interesting as the group of subjects are part of a large at-risk population for obesity and related problems and yet it's often considered a forgone conclusion that these people will stay obese, due to their mental health and/or the medication they take to treat it. 

Now, I am certainly not saying that we can now blame those who suffer from mental illness for their obesity because they are lazy. Nor do I imagine that everyone can easily begin a weight loss program when faced with these difficulties.

But I think it's important to show that we can't just dismiss large groups of people simply because they fall into certain demographics. Lucy Knisley and I had very similar upbringings (albeit about a decade and a half apart), but she didn't struggle with her weight. One person's life is not a universal basis of fact.

One of Henry Rollins comments at this conference was that even when confronted with seemingly mean or bad people, he cautioned that they are more likely not getting good information. And I think that's part of why I do this blog. I want to share that what we sometimes perceive about ourselves and those around us in regards to eating, weight and exercise (as well as librarians) may not carry all the information we need to make the right choice.

Part of that, as I've said many times before, is our own accountability. It's up to us to find the answers. But we often don't know what we don't know, and so may not look for more information.   

If nothing else, I hope I at least make everyone desire to learn more. if not from me or the endless references I post, then from anywhere outside their usual comfort zone.

[Insert pithy comment about punk rock and chicken tetrazzini here].


Daumit, G. L., Dickerson, F. B., Wang, N.-Y., Dalcin, A., Jerome, G. J., Anderson, C. A. M., … Appel, L. J. (n.d.). A Behavioral Weight-Loss Intervention in Persons with Serious Mental Illness. New England Journal of Medicine, 0(0). doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1214530

Relish | Lucy Knisley | Macmillan. (n.d.). Macmillan. Retrieved April 17, 2013, from http://us.macmillan.com/book.aspx?name=relish&author=LucyKnisley

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Getting caught up comically

Getting ready to hit the wilds of Indianapolis for this conference of my peeps. Now that I'm that person, I'm more happy that there's some great places to run and also a gym in the hotel. Sad, eh?

I kid. I'm eager to talk about information. Until then I'll leave everyone with some fine graphic food creation from some of my favorite illustrators:

First off, there's Kyle Baker:

And then Maakie Hartjes (usually with Dutch dialogue, so this a treat for all you monolinguists)

See you all soon with more researched diet rants!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Some of my best friends are chunky vegans

Many, many years ago in NYC, there was a all-vegan cafe, one of the few of it's kind. [Note: I myself am not vegan but one does try to accommodate friends' needs]. My friends and I referred to it as "going to eat hippie" and that was perhaps the best way to describe the experience. Friendly, but spacey service. Somewhat dusty in decor and filled with people who were likely to spin around spontaneously to droning music. The food was earnest but not very exciting; usually lumps of hummus and babaganoush sitting on some lettuce leaves or maybe sliced seitan buried in soy sauce. Desserts were ... well, they did try. The fruit flavored seaweed pudding lacked the color, scent or taste of a truly yummy dessert, but it did give us a good topic to joke about for years.

Flash forward a few decades. More healthy, organic, vegan options start appearing all over the city. The all-vegan cafe, perhaps sensing it was no longer the only game in town, goes through an extreme makeover. The decor becomes streamlined and modern. The service more efficient. Alcoholic beverages and topical cocktails appear. It becomes a go-to for brunches. The menu is now open and diverse, blending all sorts of cultures.

After a few too many old-time experiences, I was never too eager to go there anymore, even in a post-ironic way. But I was dragged and the food was indeed tasty.

But what made it so tasty? It was all still vegan, but it was swimming in oils, fats and salts. I think the times I walked out of there in recent years has been with the same feeling I get when I've just eaten barbecue or heavy Chinese food.

Backtrack some years back when I was working in midtown. My coworkers and I often ate at fast food chain promoted as healthier with easy to make choices for better options in regards to it's Mexican style food. It seemed a healthier option than most other fast food places. Except a few months later, I decided to check out the nutrition information they post online. Sooooo many calories! Sooooooo much sodium! Even their salad bowls.

Just because something is "healthy" doesn't mean it's prepared that way. Check out this cute video on how food labels do not show correct calorie amounts. Even in the more "natural" eating groups, it's not always simple food. Truth be told, I do know a lot of chunky vegans. Daily vegan cupcakes aren't any better a choice for a healthy diet than lard-laden ones.

Mmmm.....vegany lard cakes...

And now here's the latest from Mark Bittman in the NY Times where he dreams of starting a vegetarian/vegan fast food. He visits some smaller chains trying this scheme already. The price certainly is an issue (Those McNuggets can be cheaper than a bean burger), but he also comments that at one place, "even when I didn’t overeat, I felt as heavy afterward as I do after eating at a Junk Food chain."

Having worked in an established that researched foodservice, I can say that I have seen the process of how many of these dishes are made. Let is say that convenience rarely means unprocessed. These food products need to travel, have a stable shelf life and be under a certain price point.

So why try to recreate this total fast food scenario? I don't think there's anything wrong with creating a convenient "family dining" establishment that caters to better options. It would enable an actual lifestyle change, as opposed to a restrictive "diet." But convenience is one thing. All that sodium laden fried tastes are another. Just like the old vegan place in my neighborhood. Very popular now, but I never feel like I've made a healthy choice, even if I just eat one of their salads.

I think we all need to remember that restaurant food in general (and fast food in particular) is not the clean slate, no matter what your food preference.

So are we all doomed if we step outside to eat? Maybe. On the plus side, chunkier vegans (and carnivores) would evidently not be as harmed when hit by a car in NYC. 

It's the little things, really.

Bittman, M. (2013, April 3). Yes, Healthful Fast Food Is Possible. But Edible? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/magazine/yes-healthful-fast-food-is-possible-but-edible.html
“Calorie Detective”. (2013, February 12). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/opinion/calorie-detective.html
Flegenheimer, M. (2013, April 2). Study Details Injuries to Pedestrians and Cyclists in New York City. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/nyregion/study-details-injuries-to-pedestrians-and-cyclists-in-new-york-city.html

Monday, April 1, 2013

March Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

The Lean Green Bean

It's that time again, time to reveal the great food I got in the mail.

First, though, I think amazing shout and props must be given to Lindsay, who oversees this whole endeavor. There are over 1,000 participants each month and she corrals everyone into getting this done. Needless to say, there are some glitches and missed connections, but she really closes those gaps and makes sure it's done. She doesn't have to, but she does, which must be hella time consuming. 

So, thank you Lindsay and congratulations on finishing up your Dietietic Internship! I hope when you get that RD accreditation, you do not forget to work with whichever libarians are around. We all need each other.

So, yes, this month had a few more bumps than last time. The person who was supposed to send me a box never contacted me. After a week or so, Lindsay closed the gap on that one and connected me with Tiffany from Greeley CO, who immediately contacted me. After a few e-mail exchanges, I was once again excited to wait for my mail.

(Interesting small world factoid: My parents briefly lived in Greeley back in the early 60's.)

Fast forward to the end of the month and no sign of the package. Tiffany sent me the tracking number, but the post office couldn't find it. They claimed it was delivered. I pictured a few of my wacky neighbors feasting on whatever she sent me. But then I went back to the post office. And while they claimed it was nowhere, I saw the package SITTING ABOVE THEIR HEADS ON A SHELF. Lucky I'm so tall, I guess.

So, a bit of a mini-crisis, but all ends well. Now, what did Tiffany send me?

Carob almonds, red wine vinegar and assorted hot sauces! (I did say I liked spicy and sweet!)

Tiffany's note said that I shouldn't feel too guilty about the carob almonds. Now, I did have a brief 70s flashback to carob powder used as a substitute in health food, so I was a little nervous. But these were EXCELLENT! I suppose they would have been healthy if I hadn't eaten so many at once.

I would be lying if I said I didn't just try these sauces right out of the bottle. The chipolte was smoky with a nice creamy bite. The habanero had a great kick and the cayenne was perfectly hot!

I immediately had to use all three in dinner:

Some of the leftover chicken and matzoh "stuffing" sauteed up with collard greens and healthy doses of habanero and cayenne sauces. Next to that is a avocado/tomato/queso "salsa" with some big splashes of the chipolte sauce (along with some extra gefilte fish).

(Small world factoid #2: I was actually out of red wine vinegar, so that bottle was a nice coincidence, too!)

So thank you to Tiffany, who stepped up to avert foodie pen pal dissppointment!

I sent my package to Laura, who lives in Nevada and is dating a chef (lucky!) You can visit her site, Foodie Meets Chef, to see what I sent her.

And on a great sitcom end note...the post office sent me a final notice about this package AFTER I came and picked it up!